System change jargon buster

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

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

In response, the SPF has produced this simple to use jargon buster. It is intended for people who already have a good working knowledge of the system, but who might want to understand the new terminology, or system improvement plans. The guide does not set out to answer questions about specific changes that might affect certain organisations, staff, or groups of staff and their representatives.

Read more about system changes in our overview of planned changes page.


Acute care

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

Arm's Length Bodies (ALBs)

ALBs regulate the system, establish national standards, protect patients and the public, and provide central services to the NHS.



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. Think local act personal Care and Support Jargon Buster.
  3. NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) to improve care for patients over the next ten years.
  4. The Interim NHS People Plan sets out how staff will be supported to deliver the LTP.
  5. We are the NHS: People Plan 2020/21 – Action for us all.
  6. Working together to improve health and social care for all - White paper setting out legislative proposals for a Health and Care Bill.
  7. The ICS Design Framework, which sets out more details on the plans for statutory ICSs.
  8. The Health and Care Bill which was introduced to Parliament in July 2021.