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A guide to some of the terms used within the Trust and the NHS. See also Conditions and Services.

A to Z list


Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC)

An organisation, such as Kings Health Partners, which combines research, education and clinical services for the benefit of patients. South London and Maudsley is part of Kings Health Partners. 

Accident and Emergency (A&E)

The part of a hospital for anyone who needs emergency treatment, including those having a severe mental health crisis. In some hospitals, this is known as the Emergency Department (ED) or casualty. 

Acute care

Short term treatment for diseases or illnesses that start quickly and have painful or distressing symptoms. The term 'acute' is also used to refer to services which provide care and treatment for physical health problems.


A trained and independent person who supports your communication with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. An advocate can ask questions and write letters on your behalf, and make sure they understand your point of view.

Specialist advocates are available to support you with complaints and the Mental Health Act

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which describes the loss of mental abilities, such as memory and reasoning.

To find out more visit the NHS website


Anorexia is an eating disorder and serious mental health condition.

People who have anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible by not eating enough food or exercising too much, or both. This can make them very ill because they start to starve.

They often have a distorted image of their bodies, thinking they're fat even when they're underweight.

Men and women of any age can get anorexia, but it's most common in young women and typically starts in the mid-teens.

To find out more visit the NHS website


Medication that is usually used to treat psychosis. Sometimes it is used to treat other conditions.

Approved Mental Health Professional (AMPH)

Someone trained in the legal aspects of assessment and treatment under the Mental Health Act. They are approved by their local authority social services department.

Art Therapy

Feelings can often be easier to identify and express with imagination and creativity rather than thinking and talking.

Art therapy aims to help people understand their feelings using art, and to change how they relate to themselves, and others.

Music therapists, drama therapists and dance and movement therapists work in a similar way.

Associate Hospital Managers (AHMs)

A group of people appointed by the Trust to oversee how we use the Mental Health Act. They hear appeals from patients being treated under the Act and review sections, in a similar way to Mental Health Tribunals.

AHMs official name under the Mental Health Act is Hospital Managers. We call them Associate Hospital Managers to avoid confusion with other hospital managers. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people's behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse.

To find out more visit the NHS website.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autistic spectrum disorder is the medical term for autism. Autistic people may act in a different way to other people. They may find it hard to communicate, do or think the same things over and over, and get anxious about unfamilar situations. 

Some autistic people need little or no support. Others may need help from a parent or carer everyday.

To find out more visit the NHS website

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Beth is a free and secure way for our patients and carers to stay connected with their care team. If you are a patient or service user,you can use Beth on your mobile phone or computer


A biological indicator (such as a protein) which changes in response to and event, illness or ageing. Biomarkers can help detect and chart the progress of illness or and treatment.

Different biomarkers are measured in different ways,  for example physical examination, blood or urine tests and scans.  

Biomedical Research Centres (BRC)

Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) aim to find new ways of using research to prevent, diagnose and treat illness. They are part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre is a partnership between South London and Maudsley and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at Kings College London.

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Caldicott Guardian

The senior healthcare professional in each NHS organisation who is responsible for safeguarding the confidentiality of information about patients. The name comes from the Caldicott Report, which identified 16 recommendations for the use and storage of patient-identifiable information.


Child and adolescent mental health services, or services for children and young people

Care coordinator

The person responsible for making sure your care is properly planned and you get the help you need. They usually work with a community mental health team and will be the person you see most often. They might be a community psychiatric nurse, social worker or occupational therapist.

Care pathway

A standard way of giving care or treatment to someone with a particular diagnosis. See 

Care plan

A plan for your care over the next few weeks or months. It should be written down and you should have a copy.  If you think it is wrong, or something is missing, you can ask for it to be changed.

Care programme approach (CPA)

This is a package of care that requires health and social services and other agencies to work together with you to provide an agreed programme of care. A CPA means you have a care coordinator and a care plan. 

If you are on the CPA, there will be a meeting every three to six months where everyone involved in your care, including you, meets to discuss how things have been going and to agree what should happen next. 

To find out more visit the Rethink website.


An unpaid family member, partner or friend who helps look after someone who needs practical and emotional support. This might include shopping, getting to appointments and being someone to talk to.

Please tell us if you are a carer for someone, and visit Information for carers

Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS)

The Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) has been developed for use within the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). It provides authorised researchers with regulated, secure access to anonymised information extracted from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust electronic patient records system.

Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)

Clinical Commissioning Groups are responsible for planning, paying for and monitoring health services in particular boroughs. 

Clinical trial

A research study to answer specific questions about new therapies or new ways of using known treatments. Clinical trials are used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective.


Someone who provides professional care and treatment to patients, such as a nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT)

A talking treatment which can help you to see how early relationships and experiences have affected how you see yourself, other people and how you behave. It usually takes about 16 weekly sessions and focuses on a problem that is important for you.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

A talking treatment which can help you to overcome upsetting and unhelpful ways of thinking and behaviour. It helps you understand these patterns and work out your own ways of changing them. It usually involves doing some work between sessions when you "try out" different ways of thinking or behaving.

Cognitive therapy

Psychological therapy in which cognition (thinking) is seen as the most significant factor in psychological problems and their treatment.


An organisation that allocates funding for health services on behalf of their local population. This could be a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) or local authority.

Community Mental Health Team (CMHT)

A team of people from different health and social care professions who work in your community to help you to recover from, and cope with, a mental health problem.

Community psychiatric nurse (CPN)

A nurse who has been trained to help people with mental health problems and who works in the community, instead of in a hospital.

Consultant psychiatrist

The medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders who has overall responsibility for your care. This includes your medication and other aspects of your treatment and care

Community Treatment Order

community treatment order is part of the Mental Health Act. It means you can leave hospital and be treated in the community so long as you follow certain conditions. We discuss these conditions with you before you leave hospital.

CQC - Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. The CQC makes sure that we provide high standards of care and treatment and that we look after the interests of people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.

The CQC monitors our performance by visiting our sites, carrying out patient surveys and by collecting and analysing information about our performance. The findings are published in a report on the CQC's website so everyone can see them. 

Crisis plan

A crisis plan outlines key information to be looked at during someone’s mental health crisis. This could include key contacts, signs that someone is experiencing a crisis/relapse and what to do and what support might be needed by them during the crisis

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Dementia is not a disease itself. It's a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by different diseases, such as Alzheimer's. These symptoms vary according to the part of the brain that is damaged.

To find out more visit the NHS website


Depression is a low mood that can last a long time or keep returning, affecting your everyday life.

To find out more visit the NHS website.


DIALOG is an 11 question scale used by people with a mental health illness to rate their satisfaction and needs for care across 8 areas of a their life and 3 aspects of their treatment. It is a tool that is completed by the service user

Dual diagnosis

If you have severe mental health problems and problematic substance misuse, you may be given what is known as a 'dual diagnosis' – when both problems are diagnosed.

To find out more visit the Mind website

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Early intervention

Early intervention is about providing support for people experiencing the early signs of a serious mental health problem, particularly those having the unusual experiences associated with psychosis (see Me and My Mind)

Mental health support, including talking therapy, can decrease the risk of developing a more serious mental health problem, and improve well-being and quality of life.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

A simple and painless test that records brain activity by attaching electrical wires (called electrodes) to the head. It's used to help diagnose dementia, head injury, epilepsy and other conditions.

To find out more visit the NHS website

Emergency department (ED)

The part of a hospital for anyone who has a serious injury or who needs emergency treatment. In some hospitals, this is known as the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department or casualty.


Dealing with the incidence, distribution and possible control of diseases and other factors relating to health.

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Family therapy

Family therapy is talking therapy that involves the whole family. It can be especially helpful when children have depression or a behavioural problem, and when parents are splitting up.

It can also help families where someone has an eating disorder, mental health condition, or addiction. 

Full mental health assessment

A full mental health assessment is a comprehensive multidisciplinary team assessment consisting of an assessment of your mental and physical health. Examples of questions you might be asked include: are you able to cope with your symptoms and look after yourself currently; what support you might have at home; what are your financial circumstances?

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General practitioner (GP)

Your local doctor, and usually the first person you see if you need help with your physical or mental health. They can help you directly and refer you for specialist care or assessment. Many GPs have a community psychiatric nurse, psychiatrist or counsellor connected with their surgery.

Group psychotherapy (group analytic psychotherapy)

Group psychotherapy explores relationships as they develop among the members of a group, including the therapist. Group members are invited to participate in open conversation in which personal issues can be confidentially explored. By discussing relationships within the group, past experiences which influence and affect current emotional experiences can be better understood.

Group therapy

Any form of talking therapy that is done in a group. Some groups last a few weeks and others may last for several years. All groups make use of the input from other group members as well as the group leader to help people understand and change their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

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Health care assistants

A member of hospital staff who helps qualified nursing staff to care for patients on the ward.

Home treatment

Home treatment (sometimes called Crisis Resolution) is a way of helping people at home rather than in hospital, which can help them avoid the stress, anxiety and upheaval that can happen with a hospital admission. Home treatment can include daily or twice daily visits, and help with medication and sorting out practical matters such as accommodation and shopping.

Hospital chaplain

The Trust chaplaincy service can help you to contact an appropriate representative of your faith. There are chapels at some of our sites that can be used for private prayer or religious services.

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Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT)

This is a programme to improve access to Talking therapy services have now been set up across the NHS. They are still sometimes known as IAPT services.

Informal patient

Also known as voluntary patients. Someone who is in hospital because they want to be, or at least feel that it could be helpful for them. They are not detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act.


Someone who stays in hospital to receive care and treatment. Outpatients are people who visit hospital for treatment.

Involvement register

A register of people who use mental health services, as well as carers and the public. People on the involvement register can become involved in various aspects of the Trust, such as attending regular committee meetings, working on an audit project or taking part in staff recruitment.

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King's Health Partners

The Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) we are part of, along with Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London.

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Learning disabilities

If someone has a learning disability, it means they find it more difficult to learn, understand and communicate.

Some people with a learning disability also have mental health difficulties.

Looked after children (LAC)

A child who has been looked after by their local authority for more than 24 hours is known as a looked after child. This usually happens as a result of a court order, or after agreement with their parent or parents.

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Medical Review

A medical review is an assessment of your current physical health; e.g. blood pressure, weight. The aim of this is to review the medication you are taking (if any) and to monitor your physical health

Medium secure unit

Medium Secure Units, also known as MSUs, provide hospital care for people with complex mental health problems who may have become involved in the criminal justice system. 

Mental Health Act

The legal framework governing the treatment of people with mental illness in England and Wales. See Mental Health Act.

Mental health tribunal

An independent panel of people responsible for hearing appeals from patients who disagree with how we how using the Mental Health Act.

Multi-disciplinary team

A team of health and social care staff. It includes professionals such as nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists and benefits workers. It can also include service users and non-professionals in certain jobs.

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Named nurse

The ward nurse with special responsibility for you while you are in hospital. They work closely with you and your consultant to design your care plan and review its progress. Also known as a primary nurse.

They may be asked to write reports about your progress, for example if you appeal to the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

If your nurse is not available you can get help from any of the staff on the ward.


The process of producing images of the structure or activity of the brain or other part of the nervous system using MRI scans or CT scans. Images of the brain structure help with the diagnosis of tumours or injury, while images of brain activity help with the diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer's, and with neurological and cognitive psychology research.


Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system, including the brain. This helps us understand how we perceive and interact with the external world; and how human experience and biology influence each other.

NHS Trust

A legal organisation providing health and social care services within the NHS.

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Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic mental health condition that is usually associated with both obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour.

Occupational therapist (OT)

The person who will work with you to develop your skills and confidence in everyday life, including work, social and leisure activities and personal care.


Someone who visits hospital for an appointment to see a doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist. An inpatient is someone who stays in hospital to receive care and treatment.

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Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

Every NHS Trust has a Patient advice and liaison service (PALS) that provides email and telephone advice and information about the services we provide and helps to resolve Concerns and complaints.

Patient and public involvement (PPI)

A term used to describe a way of involving people who use services, and the wider public, in how NHS services are planned and provided.

Patient Journey System (PJR or ePJS)

The electronic patient records system developed at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. It holds information about people who use our services and the care and treatment that they receive from the Trust.

Personality disorder

Personality disorders are a range of conditions that affect a person's thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Most people with personality disorders find it difficult to deal with other people.


Someone who has expert knowledge of the use of medicines. They work closely with doctors and nurses and advise them on the safe and effective use of drugs.  They are responsible for supplying medication and making sure it is available in the right form.


The study of drugs and their uses and effects.


A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear, for example a fear of heights or animals. Phobias are estimated to affect 1 in 40 adults a year.

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

If you have experienced a traumatic event, you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the days, weeks or months after the incident. Although such events can be very difficult to come to terms with, confronting your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD.

Postnatal depression

The birth of a baby is an emotional experience and, for many new mothers, feeling tearful and depressed is also common. However, sometimes longer periods of depression, known as postnatal depression (PND), can occur during the first few weeks and months of the baby's life. PND can have a variety of physical and emotional symptoms, but it can be treated.


A medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders. They have overall responsibility for your care, which includes any medication you may take, whether you are being treated in hospital or in the community.

Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic therapy

A talking treatment which looks at how your past relationships might be affecting how you currently feel, think and behave. It can be done individually or in a group.

Psychological therapies

Psychological therapies are also known as talking therapy. They give you the chance to talk about, explore and deal with problems, with a trained psychological therapist.


Someone who has done a psychology degree, then further training in helping people with emotional or psychological problems.  Psychologists can offer you therapy which involves talking about your difficulties and working together to overcome them. They are different from psychiatrists in that they are not medically trained and do not prescribe medication.


Disorders involving distorted perceptions of reality - thinking, feeling, hearing and seeing - often with symptoms of hallucinations and delusions.


Someone who has trained to carry out one or more of the psychotherapies. They can be from any professional background - or none. They should be registered with a professional psychotherapy organisation in the UK.


A talking treatment which aims to help people to understand their mental or emotional problems, change behaviour and thoughts or emotions to improve their well-being. This can refer to any form of psychological therapy but is often specifically applied to psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

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Randomised controlled trial (RCT)

A randomised controlled trial is a kind of experiment that aims to reduce bias when testing the effectiveness of treatment. This is done by randomly allocating participants to two or more groups and treating them with either the intervention, such as new medication, or a control such as a pill with no active ingredients.

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Safety plan

A safety plan describes how to keep someone safe if they are in a crisis or their mental health is relapsing. It is used to help support those who struggle with their mental well-being.


Schizophrenia is a long-term mental health condition where you may see, hear or believe things that are not real.  

It's important to see your GP as soon as possible if you think you or someone close to you has schizophrenia. Early treatment is important.

There's no single test for schizophrenia. It's usually diagnosed after an assessment by a mental health care professional, such a a psychiatrist.

To find out more visit the NHS website


Screening is used to identifiy somone's current mental health state, what they need and their current risk level. This information is used to help ensure they are given the most appropriate support, for example crisis within 24 hours, urgent within 7 days, routine within 28 days

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression".

To find out more visit the NHS website. 


Section refers to a part of the Mental Health Act. This is a law that guides what services can and can't do when they want to assess or treat someone against their will.


Self-harm is when somebody damages or injures their body on purpose. Support is available for anyone who self-harms or thinks about self-harm, as well as their friends and family.

To find out more visit the NHS website.

Service user

Someone who uses mental health services, or who has done so in the past. Also called patients.


Short for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The preferred short name is our Trust, or the Trust rather than SLaM. 

Social anxiety disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-term and overwhelming fear of social situations.

It's important to get help if you are having symptoms. There are treatments that can help you manage it. 

To find out more visit the NHS website.

Social worker

A professional who can help you with practical aspects of life if you are struggling, and work with others to help make your life better.

Sometimes, in extreme situations such as when people are at risk of harm or in danger of hurting others they have to take stronger action to protect them. 

Specialist registrar

A qualified and experienced doctor who is training in a particular medical area or specialty. They sometimes manage ward rounds instead of the consultant and can make decisions with you about your care.


People who have an interest and / or an involvement ('stake') in an organisation, its activities and its plans for the future. This can include the public, service users, carers and staff.

Support workers

Staff employed to support qualified nurses in providing care.

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Talking therapy/treatment

A general term for treatments which involve talking in individual or group sessions with a trained mental health professional. See talking therapy

Translational research

The process of taking the findings from basic science - such as laboratory research or sociology - and turning them into something that will be useful for patients, such as new treatments or new tests for assessing if someone has a particular condition.


Triage is the first stage of assessment, it aims to assess and prioritise service type, need and urgency based on current risk presentation of the person entering the services.

Triangle of care

Triangle of care recommends better partnership working between service users and their carers, and organisations. It was developed by carers and staff to take part in engagement in acute inpatient and home treatment services

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