Jason and the jargonauts: Jason’s quest for the golden fleece of plain English

● Recently, I attended an “expert seminar” (naturally I had to blag my way in) on “dual diagnosis” – people with a mental health need “co-existing” with alcohol or drug use. It is an interesting label in so much that it literally means that you have two things diagnosed. But if I broke my ankle and my shoulder, surely, I too, would have a dual diagnosis.

And, in any case, you can bet your bottom Euro that anyone doing smack and suffering from delusions will also have a lot of other related things affecting their well-being, such as housing problems, social exclusion, domestic violence, child protection and so on. So it is a phrase that probably understates the extent of their problems.

Anyway, a consultant project manager hired by Turning Point (an organisation that modestly labels itself “the leading social care organisation”) shared with us assembled experts the findings of good practice research and what service users with dual diagnosis had to say. Their big message (that’s the service users not social care’s greatest living organisation) was to stop talking in jargon and acronyms (he actually meant abbreviations, but let’s not split hairs).

It was a delight to see so many nodding heads among the experts. Perhaps the message was getting through at last. Could this column’s days be numbered? Er, no. The users had spoken. The experts had listened. But clearly they had not heard. As the next two sets of speakers used the following within the next 45 minutes: JSNA DD LAA local determination SMI CPA CMHT EI and AO teams MI/PD pathways of care PTSD DH SM services BME MH Mocam NTA SM treatment population mapping Nimhe NSF Nice CNO IOESC enhanced CPA and Midas survey.

The event was also billed as the launch of a Department of Health policy review of dual diagnosis services. However, this failed to take place as civil servants had yet to approve a final version (they were probably dissatisfied that the word “robust” had only been used 12 times or something equally grand).

One of the organisers suggested that it was simply a spelling mistake and was not to be a policy launch but rather a policy lunch. He’ll probably eat out on that gag for a month.

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