We know that sometimes the things you read can be confusing and that we do not always make ourselves as clear as we would wish to be.  Because we want you to understand everything you see on our website, or in documents that you may come across while accessing our services, we have produced a jargon buster to help explain some of the newer or more complicated words used.

Terms are in alphabetical order and can be found by clicking on the letters below.

 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 



Accident and emergency (A&E)

Where people who have been seriously injured or who need emergency treatment go.

Acute care

Services which provide care and treatment for physical health problems.  Can also refer to short term treatment for diseases or illnesses that start quickly and have painful or distressing symptoms.


A trained and independent person who will support you in talking to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. This could involve putting questions to them on your behalf, or making sure they understand your point of view.

Affective disorders

Mental disorders reflected in disturbances of mood. They may be regarded as lying along the affective spectrum, a grouping of related psychiatric and medical disorders which may accompany bipolar, unipolar, and schizoaffective disorders, at statistically higher rates than would normally be expected.

Allied health professionals (AHPs)

Health professionals including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, art therapists and speech and language therapists.

Antipsychotic medication

Antipsychotic or neuroleptic medication is primarily used to manage psychosis including delusions, hallucinations, or disordered thought.  It is particularly used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder although is increasingly being used in the management of non-psychotic disorders.

Assertive outreach team

A team which sees patients more often than usual. You might be seen by an assertive outreach team if you tend to leave hospital and then become ill again shortly after discharge.


When someone is unwell, health care professionals meet with the person to talk to them and find out more about their symptoms so they can make a diagnosis and plan treatments. This is called an assessment. Family members should be involved in assessments, unless the person being assessed does not want their involvement.

Associate hospital managers

The associate hospital managers are a group of volunteers who are appointed and trained by the Trust; they must not be employees of the organisation or have any financial interest in it. Their role is a delegated duty from the Trust board and therefore managers are not independent of the Trust; however, they do have the power to discharge a specific group of detained patients.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

One of the most common childhood disorders which can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity or over activity.

Autistic spectrum disorders

Describes a range of conditions including autism, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome. These disorders are typically characterized by social deficits, communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests and sometimes cognitive delays.


Bipolar disorder

Is a mental illness typically classified as a mood disorder. It is characterized by episodes of an elevated or agitated mood known as mania, usually alternating with episodes of depression.

Body mass index (BMI)

Is a measure for human body shape based on an individual's mass and height


C Difficile

A species of bacteria of the genus Clostridium that causes severe diarrhea and other intestinal disease when competing bacteria in the gut flora have been wiped out by antibiotics.

Caldicott guardian

The senior healthcare professional in each NHS organisation who is responsible for safeguarding the confidentiality of patient information. The name comes from the Caldicott report, which identified 16 recommendations for the use and storage of patient- identifiable information.

CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services)

There are four different levels of services for children and adolescents with mental health problems - these are described as Tiers 1, 2, 3 or 4.

Care co-ordinator

The person who is responsible for making sure that your care is properly planned and you get the help you need. They will usually work with a community mental health team and will be the person you see most often. They will usually be a community psychiatric nurse, social worker or occupational therapist.

Care pathway

A standard way of giving care or treatment to someone with a particular diagnosis.  The path starts when someone first contacts health services and continues through diagnosis, treatment, and care.

Care plan

A plan for your care over the next few weeks or months. It should be written down and you should have a copy.  If you think it is wrong, or something is missing, you can ask for it to be changed.

Care programme approach (CPA)

Describes the approach used in specialist mental health care to assess, plan, review and co-ordinate the range of treatment care and support needs for people in contact with secondary mental health services who have complex characteristics. It is a called an approach because the way that the elements are carried out is as important as the tasks themselves. The approach is routinely audited.

Care quality commission (CQC)

The independent regulator of health and social care in England.  The CQC regulate the quality of care provided in hospitals, care homes and people's own homes by the NHS, local authorities, private companies and voluntary organisations, including protecting the interests of people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.


A person who looks after someone else without being paid to do so. This can involve helping out with practical things including managing money, and being someone to talk with, and someone who is there to listen.


The trust chaplaincy service can help you to contact an appropriate representative of your faith. There are chapels at some of our sites that can be used for private prayer or religious services.

Chronic condition

A condition that develops slowly and/or lasts a long time.


Someone who uses health services. Some people use the terms patient or service user instead.

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)

NHS organisations set up by the health and social care act 2012 to organise the delivery of NHS services in England. CCGs are clinically led groups that include all of the GP groups in their geographical area. The aim of this is to give GPs and other clinicians the power to influence commissioning decisions for their patients.

Clinical governance

A system of steps and procedures through which NHS organisations are accountable for improving quality and safeguarding high standards to ensure that patients receive the highest possible quality of care


A term which is used to describe someone who provides care and treatment to patients, such as a nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist.


Is an atypical antipsychotic medication used in the treatment of schizophrenia.


An organisation which determines what health and social care services should be provided for local people and which then commissions and allocates funding for other organisations to provide them.

Commissioning for quality and innovation (CQUIN)

Is a payment framework where a proportion of an NHS provider’s income is conditional on quality and innovation. It’s aim is to support the vision set out in “high quality care for all” of an NHS where quality is the organising principle.

Community care

Care and support provided outside of a hospital.

Community mental health team (CMHT)

A team of people from different health and social care professions who work in your community to help you to recover from, and cope with, a mental health problem.

Community psychiatric nurse (CPN)

A nurse who has been trained to help people with mental health problems and who works in the community, instead of in a hospital.

Conditional discharge

These are the conditions which relate to the discharge of a patient who has been treated in hospital under Section 41 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) (the law in England that controls what services can do when they are trying to assess or treat someone against their will). If you do not comply with these conditions then you could be brought back into hospital.

Consultant psychiatrist

A medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders who has overall responsibility for your care. This includes your medication and other activities you may take part in whilst in hospital.

Council of governors

Made up of elected public and staff members and also including non elected members such as the prison service, voluntary sector, acute trusts, universities, primary care trusts and local authorities. The Council has an advisory, guardianship and strategic role including developing the Trust’s membership, appointments and remuneration of the non executive directors including chairman and deputy chairman, responding to matters of consultation from the Trust Board, and appointing the Trust’s auditors.


A mental health crisis is a sudden and intense period of severe mental distress.


Day care

Communal care that is usually provided away from a service user's place of residence with carers present.


Services are organised around six divisions; adult mental health services, substance misuse services, mental health services for older people, adult learning disability services, children and young people’s services and forensic services (see also localities).


Early intervention

A way of picking up the early signs of a serious mental illness. This is so that treatment can start as early as possible to help people to maintain their mental health



FACE risk assessment:

A portfolio of assessment tools designed for adult and older people’s mental health settings. Risk is assessed using the FACE risk profile based on four factors; violence, self-harm, suicide, self neglect and vulnerability.

Forensic services

Services working mainly with people who are mentally unwell or who have a learning disability and have been through the criminal justice system. The majority of people are transferred to secure hospital from prison or court, where their needs can be assessed and treated. These services are intended to make sure that people with severe mental illness or learning disability who enter the criminal justice system get the care they need.

Formal patient

A person who is legally kept in hospital under a section of The Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) (often called "a section").

Foundation trusts

NHS foundation trusts have been created to shift a certain amount of decision-making from central government control to local organisations and communities. This should make foundation trusts more responsive to the needs and wishes of their local people.


General practitioner (GP)

Your local doctor - or family doctor - who will usually be the first person you see if you have a physical illness or emotional problem. They can help you directly but can also refer you on for specialist care or assessment. Many GPs have a community psychiatric nurse, psychiatrist or counsellor who works at the GP surgery.


Health care assistants

A member of hospital staff who helps qualified nursing staff to care for patients on the ward.

Health care associated infections (HCAIs)

Treatment resistant infection contracted as a consequence of being in contact with healthcare services, predominantly MRSA and c-difficile.

Health of the nation outcome score (HoNOS)
A way of measuring how well someone is doing in their treatment and recovery.


Local bodies made up of individuals and community groups, such as faith groups and residents' associations, working together to improve health and social care services. They aim to ensure that each community has services that reflect the needs and wishes of local people.


Taking into consideration as much about a person as possible in the treatment of an illness – this includes their physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social needs.

Home treatment

Home treatment (sometimes called crisis resolution) is a way of helping people at home rather than in hospital. This can help to avoid the stress, anxiety and upheaval that can happen with a hospital admission. This can include daily or twice daily visits, and help with medication and sorting out practical matters such as accommodation and shopping.

Hospital episode statistics (HES)

is the national statistical data warehouse for England of the care provided by NHS hospitals and for NHS hospital patients treated elsewhere. HES is the data source for a wide range of healthcare analysis for the NHS, Government and many other organisations and individuals.



Independent sector

Voluntary, charitable, and private care providers.

Informal patient

Someone who is in hospital because they want to be - or at least feel that it could be helpful for them. Someone who is not detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).

Information governance toolkit and assessment report

Is a national approach that provides a framework and assessment for assuring information quality against national definitions for all information that is entered onto computerised systems whether centrally or locally maintained.


Someone who stays in hospital to receive care and treatment.

Integrated services

Health and social care professionals (such as social workers) working together in one team to provide a comprehensive range of support.


An ‘intervention’ describes any treatment or support that is given to someone who is unwell. An intervention could be medication, a talking therapy, or an hour spent with a volunteer.




Learning disabilities

If someone has a learning disability, it means that they may find it more difficult to learn, understand and communicate. Learning disabilities are not a "mental illness", but can be caused by illness or problems before or during birth, or that develop during childhood or as the result of an illness.


Is a medicine which is used in depression, mania, bipolar disorder, self-harming behaviour and treating aggressive behaviour.


Services in TEWV are organised around three Localities, County Durham and Darlington, Tees and North Yorkshire, and a forensic directorate (see also Divisions).

Low secure mental health services

Intensive rehabilitation services for offenders who have mental health problems.



Mental capacity act

Is a framework to provide protection for people who cannot make decisions for themselves. It contains provision for assessing whether people have the mental capacity to make decisions, procedures for making decisions on behalf of people who lack mental capacity and safeguards. The underlying philosophy of this is that any decision made or action taken on behalf of someone who lacks the capacity to make the decision or act for themselves must be made in their best interests.

Mental health

Someone’s ability to manage and cope with the stress and challenges of life and to manage any diagnosed mental health problems as part of leading their normal everyday life.

Mental health act 1983 (MHA)

The legal framework governing the treatment of people with mental illness in England and Wales.

Mental health research network (MHRN)

Is part of, and funded by, the national institute for health research and provides the NHS infrastructure to support commercial and non commercial large scale research in mental health including clinical trials.

Mental health tribunal

An independent organisation with responsibility for hearing appeals by patients who wish to be discharged from a section of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).

Mental health trust

A mental health trust provides treatment, care and advice to people who have mental health problems. The services may be provided from a hospital or in the community.


The independent economic regulator for NHS Foundation Trusts.


Is a bacterium responsible for several difficult to treat infections in humans. MRSA is especially troublesome in hospitals, prisons and nursing homes, where patients with open wounds, invasive devices and weakened immune systems are at greater risk of infection than the general public.

Multi-disciplinary team

A team of health and social care staff. It includes professionals such as nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists and benefits workers. It can also include service users and non-professionals in certain jobs.


Named nurse

The nurse with special responsibility for you when you are in hospital.  He/she will work closely with you and your consultant to design your care plan and review its progress. 

National audit of psychological therapies (NAPT)

Funded by the healthcare quality improvement partnership (HQIP) and is an initiative of the college centre for quality improvement (CCQI). Aims to promote access, appropriateness, acceptability and positive outcomes of treatment for those suffering from depression and anxiety.

National confidential inquiries (NCI) and national clinical audit

Research projects funded largely by the national patient safety agency (NPSA) that examine all incidents of suicide and homicide by people with mental illness. The aim is to improve mental health services and to help reduce the risk of these tragedies happening again in the future. Supported by a national programme of audit.

National institute for clinical excellence (NICE)

NHS body that provides guidance, sets quality standards and manages a national database to improve people’s health and prevent and treat ill health. NICE works with experts from the NHS, local authorities and others in the public, private, voluntary and community sector, as well as patients and carers, to make independent decisions in an open, transparent way, based on the best available evidence and including input from experts and interested parties.

National institute for health research (NIHR)

An NHS research body aimed at supporting outstanding individuals working in world class facilities to conduct leading edge research focused on the needs of patients and the public.

National reporting and learning system (NRLS)

An NHS led central database of information on patient safety incidents used to identify and tackle important patient safety issues at their root cause.

National research passport scheme

a scheme to streamline procedures associated with issuing honorary research contracts or letters of access to researchers who have no contractual arrangements with NHS organisations.

National service frameworks (NSF)

A set of quality standards for services issued by the Department of Health.

National strategic executive information system (STEIS):
a new Department of Health system for collecting weekly management information from the NHS.

Near misses

An event or circumstance that could have resulted in unnecessary damage, loss or harm.  This may be a physical or mental injury to a patient, staff member, visitor or member of the public, which was averted through an intended or unintended action.

NHS service user survey

An annual survey measuring service users’ experience of NHS care and treatment. 

NHS staff survey

An annual survey asking staff about their experience of working within the NHS.

Non-executive director (NED)

A member of the Trust’s board who represents community interest and uses their knowledge and expertise to help improve trust services. Non-executive directors have a responsibility to ensure the trust is fully accountable to the public for the services it provides and the public funds it uses.



Occupational therapist (OT)

The person who will work with you to develop your skills and confidence in everyday life - including work, social and leisure activities and personal care.


Someone who comes to hospital for an appointment to see a doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist.

Out patient services

Services provided to someone who comes to a hospital for treatment, consultation, and advice but who does not require a stay in the hospital.

Overview and scrutiny committees (OSCs)

Statutory committees of the local authority provided to scrutinise the development and progress of strategic and operational plans of multiple agencies within the local authority area. One such OSC is for health and wellbeing.

Overview and scrutiny committee

A county council committee that is responsible for looking at the details and implications of decisions about changes to health services, and the processes used to reach these decisions.



the Trust’s electronic care record, designed with mental health professionals to make sure that the right information is available to those who need it at all times.


Someone who uses health services. Some people use the terms service user or client instead.

Patient advice and liaison team (PALs)

the team working with the Trust that provides advice and information about Trust services or signposting people to other agencies, and manages service users’ and carers’ comments, concerns or complaints.

Patient and public involvement (PPI)

A term used to describe a way of involving people who use services, and the wider public, in how NHS services are planned and provided.

Payment by results (PBR)

A new system being implemented across the NHS and piloted in mental health Trusts to provide a transparent, rules based system for paying NHS Trusts. The system aims to reward efficiency, support patient choice and diversity and encourage activity for sustainable waiting time reductions. Payment will be linked to activity, adjusted for case mix, and outcomes. Importantly, this system aims to make a fair and consistent basis for hospital funding rather than being reliant principally on historic budgets and the negotiating skills of individual managers.

Personality disorder

A class of personality types and enduring behaviours associated with significant distress or disability which appear to deviate from social expectations, particularly in relating to other humans.


Someone who has expert knowledge of the use of medicines. They work closely with doctors and nurses and advise them on the safe and effective use of drugs.  They are responsible for supplying medication and making sure it is available in the right form.


The study of drugs and their uses and effects.

Prescribing observatory in mental Health (POMH):
a national agency led by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, that aims to help specialist mental health services improve prescribing practice via clinical audit and quality improvement interventions.


An organisation which provides health and/or social care services to local people.

Psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU)

A locked ward in a hospital where some people detained under the Mental Health Act may stay. They stay in the unit because they have been assessed as being at risk to themselves or others on an open acute inpatient care ward.


A medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders. He or she has overall responsibility for your care.  This includes any medication you may take, and any activities you may be involved in whilst in hospital, or in the community.


Someone who has done a psychology degree, then further training in helping people with emotional or psychological problems.  Psychologists can offer you therapy which involves talking about your difficulties and working together to overcome them. They are different from psychiatrists in that they are not medically trained and do not prescribe medication.


is the term used to describe a type of mental health issue that seriously affects the way that a person thinks or feels and where the person can lose contact with reality.


Someone who has trained to carry out one or more of the psychotherapies. They can be from any professional background - or none. They should be registered with a professional psychotherapy organisation in the UK.


Is a 'talking treatment' which aims to help people to understand their mental or emotional problems and to change their behaviour, thoughts and emotions to improve their wellbeing. This can refer to any form of psychological therapy but is often specifically applied to psychoanalytic psychotherapy.


Quality and assurance committee (QuAC)

Sub committee of the Trust Board responsible for quality and assurance.

Quality and assurance groups (QuAG)

Locality / divisional groups within the Trust responsible for quality and assurance.

Quality risk profile reports

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) tool for providers, commissioners and CQC staff to monitor provider’s compliance with the essential standards of quality and safety.


Rapid process improvement workshop (RPIW)

A technique for improving quality within the overall TEWV quality improvement system (QIS)


A programme of therapy that aims to restore someone’s independence and confidence and reduce disability.

Residential and nursing homes

Residential and nursing homes provide round the clock care for vulnerable adults and older adults who can no longer be supported in their own homes. Homes may be run by local councils or independent organisations.

Root cause analysis (RCA)

A technique employed during an investigation that systematically considers the factors that may have contributed to the incident and seeks to understand the underlying causal factors.



Is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown in thinking and poor emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions such as paranoia; hearing voices or noises that are not there; disorganized thinking; a lack of emotion and a lack of motivation.

Secondary mental health services

Specialist mental health services usually provided by a mental health trust.  Services include support and treatment in the community as well as in hospitals.

Section 136

Is the law which can be used to admit a person to hospital for assessment and/or treatment for a mental illness. The police can use section 136 of the Mental Health Act to take a person to a place of safety when they are in a public place. A place of safety can be a hospital or a police station. The police can keep the person under this section for up to 72 hours. During this time mental health professionals can arrange for a Mental Health Act assessment.


When someone is sectioned it means they are compulsorily admitted to hospital.

Serious untoward incidents (SUIs)

Are defined as an incident that occurred in relation to NHS-funded services and care to either a patient, employee or member of the public resulting in unexpected or avoidable death; serious, prolonged or permanent harm; abuse; threat to the continuation of the delivery of services or absconding from secure care.

Service user

Someone who uses mental health services or who has done so in the past; sometimes referred to as clients or patients.

Social care

Describes services and support that help people live their lives as fully as possible, whereas health care focuses on treating an illness.  Both types of care are offered as a combined package of support to people with mental health problems.

Social inclusion

Making sure that vulnerable or disadvantaged groups are able to access all of the activities and benefits available to anyone living in the community.

Social worker

A professional who can help you with practical aspects of life and who will often also have had training in psychological help. They work closely together with other organisations that are also able to provide you with help


People who have an interest and / or an involvement (stake) in an organisation, its activities and its plans for the future. This can include the public, service users, carers and staff.


Society’s negative attitude to people, often caused by lack of understanding.  Stigma can be a problem for people who experience mental ill health.

Supervised community treatment

When someone detained under the Mental Health Act is discharged from hospital, they can be placed on ‘supervised community treatment’.  This means they can return home but continue to be treated without their consent.

Supplementary prescribing

A partnership between a doctor, a service user, and a nurse or allied health professional (AHP).  Under the partnership the nurse or AHP can make adjustments to someone’s medication based on an agreed care plan.

Support workers

Staff employed to support qualified nurses in providing care


Talking therapy/treatment

A general term for treatments which involve talking in individual or group sessions with a trained mental health professional.

TEWV quality improvement system (QIS)

the Trust’s framework and approach to continuous quality improvement based on Kaizen /Toyota principles.


Unexpected death

a death that is not expected due to a terminal medical condition or physical illness.


Visual control boards

a technique for improving quality within the overall TEWV quality improvement system (QIS).


Ward doctor

The psychiatrist responsible for your daily medical care and for prescribing any medication you may need. If your consultant is away he/she may also stand in for them (see consultant psychiatrist).

Ward manager

The senior nurse in charge of running a hospital ward.





Thank you to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Sandwell Mental Health Foundation Trust for allowing us to use information from their jargon busters in producing ours.