Views & Reviews No Holds Barred

Margaret McCartney: Bad language

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 05 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2342
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

Whether it’s related to remnants of paternalism or to the universal rise of the public relations industry, healthcare is littered with terminology that inadvertently or otherwise misleads, by concealing or distorting crucial information. From lazy language to deliberate doublespeak, some of my most loathed examples are below. Don’t we need a clear-out of this bad language?

Words that mask austerity cuts:

  • Bed blocker: Patient who has been failed by funding cuts to the social care sector

  • Social admission: Outcome of a lack of social care funding (see above)

  • Avoidable admission: Hospital admission which, in retrospect and with adequate social and primary care funding, could have been managed in the community

  • Inappropriate admission: Admission to hospital that was necessary because of a lack of capacity elsewhere, usually because of insufficient funding

  • Integration of health and social care: This …

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