All the Rs (the return of jargon)

14th July 2020 - By Russ Watkins

Innovation is a word that is often overused, and certainly not shouted about enough in the NHS, yet it happens every single day.

Due to the nature of innovative work, and the ever-evolving landscape, it can be difficult to capture this work, and therefore it is not always shared. Largely because workers in the NHS (I have been very deliberate not to say front line clinicians because innovation occurs across all staff groups in the NHS) are too busy to recognise or capture it as ‘innovation’. So, the wheel is reinvented. COVID-19 has forced a spotlight on innovation, and boy has there been a shed load of it. More importantly there is a real desire to carry on in this vein and not look back.

Innovation is often at its best when there is an emergency or there is a significant obstacle in the way. People are forced to not only think differently, but also to discuss it, evolve it and more importantly implement it. Also, COVID-19 has seen that go a step further and that good work is being shared and disseminated across the country like I have never seen before. For example, training videos for care homes, designs for visors on 3D printers and how to hack the MS Teams background have all been shared without limits. Whilst people might not have considered it to be innovation or service improvement, it is exactly that, even if they see it as doing their job.

We have learnt so much in the past 4 months, torn up rule books and red tape, implemented things in days and weeks. In other words, people have done the right thing and allowed for ideas and innovation to flourish. As the NHS starts to recover (my first R) I do fear the jargon we use won’t relate to the workforce and we somehow lose all of that momentum.

Rightly so, the NHS started to assess life after COVID-19 early on. A recognition, in my opinion, that new stuff happened quickly. It might not have been perfect, but it was a change in pace like never seen before. This was first called the ‘new norm’ and a GP, who will remain nameless, did comment in a meeting about it being management speak – I think secretly he quite liked it as he used it a lot in meetings thereafter… Little did he know it was the start of an avalanche of management speak. To be fair to ‘the new norm’ it did what it said on the tin!

The many Rs

Now it seems, everything needs to start with R. The return of good old-fashioned ‘management speak’. We have more than these I am sure, but for starters…




(more) Responsive





Re-pivot (after pivot didn’t catch on, presumably because it didn’t start with a R)



OK there are a few that don’t start with R – but it won’t be long before the thesaurus comes out and it will be made into an ‘R’, such as…



New Norm

Maintaining Quality Deliverables

Pitch Rolling


Whilst I appreciate for some it allows for a certain standardisation of language, for most it is turn off and will not relate to the people who have really been the stars of innovation in the NHS.  If we are going to continue to develop all things that begin with R, there is a translation piece needed on what it actually means.

My plea is let’s keep it simple and embrace the fact COVID -19 has required us all to challenge ‘what we have always done’ and that always leads to better healthcare for our patients. I suspect we have not yet fully understood all the great work that has happened during COVID-19. Indeed, a lot of people have said that they don’t want to go back to the way it was. The pace of change has been rapid and we do need to make sure that we reflect on what has worked and why, but also what didn’t and why and would they still like to do it but in a slightly different way.

The AHSN NENC and Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has been doing some work with primary care colleagues to assess this exact thing and the next blog will explore that in more detail.


Russ is the Commercial Director at the AHSN NENC and oversees the Economic Growth team. If you would like to know more about the AHSN NENC, or the work of the Economic Growth team, please contact us at: [email protected]