NHS plan to reach patients with slang

THOUSANDS of patients across the Lothians will be spoken to in text-speak and slang in a bid to help them understand crucial health messages.

Health chiefs in Edinburgh are considering measures such as using popular abbreviations and colloquialisms to communicate with patients instead of issuing formal letters.

The idea came after NHS Lothian's director health, Dr Alison McCallum, said about 23 per cent of the area's population were "functionally illiterate".

Bosses are concerned that missing the messages could impact on the wellbeing by up to 200,000 people.

Those who are most likely to be functionally illiterate - a term used to describe people who don't have reading and writing skills beyond a very basic level - are most prone to ill health. Experts in the organisation are discussing ways in which to speak "in their language", which include texting or e-mailing in slang.

The move could involve consultants who want to summon patients for appointments, and communications workers sending out messages on a range of public health issues, such as smoking or diet.

Dr Sue Payne, a consultant in public health medicine for the health board, said: "Research has shown that people have trouble understanding information about their health and also have difficulty finding their way around our services.

"This 'low health literacy' is one of a number of challenges we face in tackling health inequalities in Lothian. We are continually looking at how we can improve our communication methods to ensure we reach as wide an audience as possible because, without addressing this problem, many who most need healthcare will not being able to access the service they need.

"NHS Lothian works with partner organisations to develop and test health information materials."

Health chiefs will team up with Edinburgh University to investigate the best way forward, which might also include the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

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