Health and care jargon buster

A guide to common abbreviations and terminology used by the health and care system
A smiling colleague.

As with many other industries and sectors, the health and care system uses numerous abbreviations and terminologies that can be confusing.

Ongoing improvement plans and changes at a national, regional and local level, have meant different parts of the system are occasionally using the same words or abbreviations to refer to different things.

In response, the SPF has produced this jargon buster for people who already have a good working knowledge of the health and care system, but might want to improve their understanding of the terminology used. This guide does not set out to answer questions about specific changes that might affect certain organisations, staff, or groups of staff and their representatives.



Acute care

Acute care is the treatment of patients with short-term but serious conditions.

Arm's Length Bodies (ALBs)

ALBs regulate the health and social care system, establish national standards, protect patients and the public, and provide central services to the NHS. They share in managing, or overseeing, the use of resources across the NHS, public health and social care. ALBs include CQC, HEE, NHS Digital and NHSE.



If you have any suggestions of further terminology we should add to the jargon buster, please contact us.

Further useful resources

  1. The NHS Confederation’s acronym buster.
  2. The NHS Confederation’s Jargon buster: integrated care.
  3. Think local act personal Care and Support Jargon Buster.
  4. NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) to improve care for patients over the next ten years.
  5. We are the NHS: People Plan 2020/21 – Action for us all.
  6. The ICS Design Framework, which sets out more details on the plans for statutory ICSs.
  7. Resources, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to support the movement of staff from CCGs and other organisations to ICBs was published on the NHSE and SPF website.
  8. The Health and Care Act 2022, which received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.
  9. Principles for ICB partnership machinery with recognised trade unions and a template framework and agreement for ICB trade union partnership forums are available on the SPF website.