HSE launches new plain English guidelines for staff

29 Jan 2018
Pictured at the launch were (left to right): Michael Power, NALA Student Representative; Helen Ryan, NALA Health Literacy Coordinator; Inez Bailey, NALA CEO; Norma Deasy, HSE Campaigns Manager; Clare McNally, NALA Communications Manager and Paul Connors, HSE National Director for Communications.

Congratulations to the HSE on the launch of their new plain English guidelines for communicating clearly.

The HSE have launched new guidelines to help staff use plain English when they communicate with patients. Plain English is a way of presenting information that helps someone understand it the first time they read it and enables them to make informed choices. Plain English benefits all of us but is particularly helpful for people with low literacy levels. The HSE guidelines were developed in conjunction with the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) as well as other divisions of the health services including health promotion and patient safety.

The guidelines require HSE staff to write accurately and clearly, avoid jargon and use clear layout and design. By using plain English, healthcare professionals can increase the likelihood that patients and service users will understand them when they present information in written, spoken or digital form. 

Speaking at the launch, Tony O’Brien, HSE Director General, welcomed the new guidelines. “The Communicating Clearly guidelines are for all staff whether we speak, write or publish information in any form for patients, services users and colleagues. They are presented in a clear and easy to read manner with a suite of check lists to ensure that information is being communicated in plain English. If we all follow the guidelines we will improve communication with everyone who uses our services or works in the HSE. Research has shown that there are fewer errors and better treatment outcomes when there is good communication between patients and their healthcare providers.”

Paul Connors, National Director HSE Communications, said: “Feedback received from patients and service users reveals they want us to show care and compassion when we talk and write to them. When we explain things clearly and with care and compassion, people have more confidence and trust in us and are more likely to take our advice, follow medical guidance, and take better care of their health.”

Speaking at the event, Michael Power, NALA learner ambassador, said the guidelines will help all patients understand what can often be very technical and stressful medical information and act on it after a single reading. "Patients will be able to act on the information provided without making mistakes or having to rely on others to translate the technical terms for us. This makes life much better for patients and service users.”

The HSE Plain English Guidelines and other resources are now available to read.

Pictured at the launch were (left to right): Michael Power, NALA Student Representative; Helen Ryan, NALA Health Literacy Coordinator; Inez Bailey, NALA CEO; Norma Deasy, HSE Campaigns Manager; Clare McNally, NALA Communications Manager and Paul Connors, HSE National Director for Communications.