“Language in Health Care: Inspiring or Dispiriting?”16th-17th September 2010, Woodbrooke College, Birmingham

This is a small, participative, interdisciplinary conference for users, professionals and academics organised by Think About Health, a network committed to doing collaborative ‘intellectual plumbing’ in the NHS.  Key note speakers include Femi Oyebode (poet and psychiatrist) and David Fuller (emeritus professor of English).  Other contributions from Angus Clarke (clinical geneticist), Deb Lee (paediatrician), Martyn Evans (professor of medical humanities).

It will explore the different languages, clinical, technical, managerial, political, colloquial and other, that flow around the NHS, and their effects and implications for health care and those who plan, offer and receive it.

  • What languages are used in the contemporary NHS and why?
  • Who uses which languages, in what contexts, and to what effect?
  • Are some languages more inspiring and helpful than others?
  • Are the various languages used compatible with each other, or do they represent different world views and life orientations?
  • Do some languages mislead and unhelpfully distort care and working life?
  • Does it matter whether the sorts of languages used are ‘truthful’ and ‘beautiful’?
  • Is there a need for new and different kinds of languages to be used?
  • Would aesthetically pleasing language produce better, more helpful care relationships?
  • Are language and health care directly, or only tangentially, related to each other?
  • Is there a place for non-instrumental and non-technical language in health care?

Alongside plenary presentations, there will be structured, small group discussions around themes. Short contributions to the conference will be made by practitioners and users to ensure discussion is earthed in the everyday life of the NHS.  A final plenary will draw together the issues discussed, with a panel of leaders from academic disciplines and health care professions.


To ensure your place at the conference please apply before the 1st September 2010.

About the Speakers and Contributors

Plenary speakers

Femi Oyebode is Professor of Psychiatry at University of Birmingham, Consultant Psychiatrist , National Centre for Mental Health, The Barberry, Birmingham, and Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist to Birmingham Women’s Hospital and Birmingham Dental Hospital.  He has also been a service director.  In addition, he has a substantial interest in medical humanities and is a published poet.  He recently edited Mindreadings: Literature and Psychiatry (London, RCPsych Publications, 2009).  So he is a skilful user of many different kinds of language.

David Fuller is Emeritus Professor of English and former Chairman of the Department of English Studies in the University of Durham. From 2002 to 2007 he was also the University’s Public Orator. He trained as a musicologist and has written on Jacobean stage music, on opera, and on ballet. His current research is on Marlowe and Shakespeare in modern performance.  As a University manager, as well as being a user and critic of words, David has many insights into the ways that languages are used in institutions.  He has lately become involved in the work of the Wellcome Centre for Medical Humanities at Durham.

Other contributors and panellists will include

Angus Clarke – clinical geneticist, Cardiff

Andrew Edgar – philosopher at Cardiff University

Martyn Evans – professor of humanities in medicine, Durham

Deb Lee – consultant physician, Cumbria

Jane Macnaughton – GP, medical and professor in medical humanities, Durham

Richard Warner – nurse consultant, Gloucester

For further details, application forms etc see: www.thinkabouthealth.org

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