Why the NHS wants patients to poo, pee and be sick | Life and style

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Name: Poo.

Also known as: Faeces, stool, excrement, ordure and several less polite alternatives.

Appearance: I think we all know what it looks like.

Oh, but it varies, not only colour but also in shape and size. There is a world of difference between “one” and “seven” on the Bristol stool scale. I’m sure there is, but we’re trying not to be too technical.

Why? Because the NHS has found that “stool” and “faeces” are already quite unfamiliar words, whereas “everyone can understand ‘poo’, including people who find reading difficult”, according to its website.

I find patronising baby talk quite difficult to read. Tough luck. The NHS will be saying “poo” henceforth.

It just doesn’t sound very, you know … doctorish. Medical? No, but that’s a good thing. We can’t jeopardise people’s health just because they don’t know what having a “bowel movement” is. Much better to say “poo”.

What’s wrong with “taking a dump”? Or “laying a cable”? Maybe those are a bit too figurative. The important thing is to be clear. Some GPs still use the words “stool” or “bowel”, so the NHS includes those words, but always adds a clear alternative.

You mean it translates everything else into poo? That’s right. For example: “Bowel incontinence can affect people in different ways. You may have a problem if you have sudden urges to poo that you can’t control.”

If that’s happening, I think you know you have a problem. I guess. And it is doing the same with “pee” and “peeing”, which it uses instead of “urinating”.

Is nothing sacred? Well, it’s better to be too obvious than too vague. “Feeling sick” and “being sick” will therefore replace “nausea” and “vomiting”.

How about Americans? When they say “sick”, doesn’t that mean “ill” in general? And don’t they say “poop” instead of “poo”? Does the NHS not care about their health? This is the NHS, so it is all based on evidence.

How so? These changes have been tested, and get more positive comments than negative ones by a factor of 10 to one.

Oh, people are always nice about the NHS. Perhaps, but these simpler words also come from survey feedback and the terms that people actually use when they search on Google or the NHS website. For example, writes Sara Wilcox: “We know that the people who use NHS digital services talk about and search for ‘peeing more often’ and ‘peeing at night’.”

Who is Sarah Wilcox? She is an NHS “content designer”.

You mean she is an editor? Fair point.

Do say: “Did you do a ploppy today?”

Don’t say: “Doctor, I’m 54”.



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