Introducing Healthwatch Essex’s Glossary

In this Research Reflections blog, Beth shares how she learnt to navigate the terminology surrounding health and social care when she first joined Healthwatch Essex. She explains how she started to create a glossary to help understand some of the confusing terms and invites you to share any words, phrases, or acronyms that you would like to see added to the glossary too.

As someone who is new to health and social care, when I first joined Healthwatch Essex I found that there was a whole host of terms and acronyms that I had never seen or heard before. Initially, I found it quite challenging to sit in meetings, attend events or read certain literature and fully comprehend what was being said, as there was a range of words I did not understand. During these meetings and when reading articles, I began making a list of the terms and acronyms that confused me, so that I could google them later. However, when looking for definitions and explanations online, I found that they often contained technical language that confused me even more. Health and social care definitions can often be ‘riddled with jargon and clumsy wording’ (Think Local Act Personal, 2020).

Within the first few weeks of my role, I was also introduced to the notion of co-production. At first, I thought, well what is this? After a few days of reading a range of literature exploring co-production and looking at the ways in which various organisations define it, I realised the complexity of this term. For instance, within health and social care services, co-production is defined in multiple ways (Masterson et al., 2022). There are also variations in the terminology surrounding co-production, with ‘lived experience’ often being referred to by NHS Foundation Trusts as ‘patient experience’. These are just a few examples from within health and social care where multiple definitions of the same word exist.

With these points in mind, I decided to bring together the range of words and acronyms that I had been collecting to form my own glossary. I produced a table containing a definition of each term and provided examples where necessary. I have tried to make the explanations of each term as clear as possible to ensure that they are accessible to individuals with varied experience and knowledge of health and social care services.

I have divided the glossary into 3 categories to make it easier to navigate the various topics as more terms are added. These include:

  • Health and Social Care Terms and Acronyms – these are any terms or acronyms that I have come across within my role that I initially did not understand or found confusing. An example of the acronym CQC and its definition is shown below.
  • Understanding Co-production Terminology – as co-production is an important aspect of health and social care, I included this section in hope that this helps to decipher the range of different ways this term is defined.
  • Understanding Research Terminology – I am eager to not only teach individuals about research, but also ensure that research is accessible for everyone. Therefore, I have added this section as an individual category and strived to make sure that the definitions of each research term are clear and coherent.

An example acronym from the glossary:

Care Quality Commission (CQC)Part of the Department of Health and Social Care* within the United Kingdom. Helps to ensure the quality and safety of care in various organisations such as hospitals and care homes.

*See definition for Department of Health and Social Care.

As part of the development of this glossary, Healthwatch Essex would love to hear from you!

We appreciate that the lived experiences of our volunteers, ambassadors, wider networks, and staff members will all be different. Therefore, the terms that you have come across and deem important may also vary. We really value your insights and would like you to share with us words, acronyms, or phrases that you frequently encounter and would like to see included in the glossary. These words do not have to fit into the categories I have already created as I would like to include as many topics as possible. I am keen to hear your ideas on what may come up.

This would be a great opportunity for us to create something together that can be used as an informative guide for everyone!

As we all know, new terms or ones we have never heard of before are always propping up, so every 6 months we will ask for your ideas again and update the ‘Healthwatch Essex Glossary’ where necessary.

In the meantime, please contact me by email [email protected] with your suggestions! I really appreciate your help and I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Beth Pittuck, Research Officer