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Our health service values are care, compassion, trust and learning. These values are reflected in everything we do and so our voice reflects them too.

Our voice is:

• trustworthy and reliable
• caring and compassionate
• straight-talking and honest

What does that mean?

• We are the experts in health in Ireland.
• You can rely on us to have current, accurate information.
• You can believe what we say.
• We’re a safe pair of hands.

Tips on putting that into practice

1. Don’t give opinion or use marketing-style language. No need to sell the facts.

Good: Immunisation – get the facts
Bad: Absolutely everything you need to know about childhood immunisation, all in one place!

2. Be definite and specific. Avoid using vague words like ‘should’, ‘aims to’, or ‘might’, especially in guidance and instruction.

Good: This guide explains waiting times for an appointment with a GP or hospital.
Bad: Our guide aims to give you an idea of how long you should wait for an appointment with a GP or hospital, in most normal circumstances.

3. Give high-quality, accurate information.

Good: A large glass of wine has 2.5 standard drinks. A large glass is 250 ml. This is based on wine of 14% abv (alcohol by volume.)
Bad: A large glass of wine is 2.5 standard drinks.

4. Content must be accurate, correct and current. No spelling or grammatical errors, no broken links, no empty pages. These damage trust.

What does that mean?

• We’re here to help you.
• We’re on your side.
• We empathise: we can’t always understand what you’re going through, but we try to imagine it and take it into account.
• We put your (user) needs above our (organisational) needs.

Tips on putting that into practice

1. Consider what people are experiencing – put their needs above organisational needs.

Good: Have separate journeys to ‘Register a birth’, ‘Get a death certificate’, ‘Get a marriage certificate’. Then you can have appropriate content for each of these.
Bad: Register a birth, marriage or death.

2. Structure sentences from a user’s perspective. Put what they want first.

Good: Get a medical card fast – use our online service.
Bad: You should use our online service if you want to get a medical card.

3. Be human and positive. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’; remember you’re talking to a person.

Good: It’s possible to regain your normal life after a heart attack.
Bad: Heart attack outcomes will vary depending on the patient’s circumstances.

Good: Living with dementia? Get help and support here.
Bad: Access dementia services.

4. Be neutral about sensitive health issues. Be careful not to sound judgemental.

Good: Reducing your number of sexual partners will reduce the chance of getting an STI.
Bad: If you sleep around you’re more likely to get an STI.

5. Think about when it’s appropriate to express compassion. In an emergency, it’s more compassionate to help someone call an ambulance than to make them read extra words.

Good: Think it’s a stroke? Dial 999 now.
Bad: These might be symptoms of stroke. Try to stay calm, take a deep breath and call an ambulance.

6. Don’t assume you know what your reader is experiencing. Concentrate on what we can do for them.

Good: Caring for a new baby can be stressful and confusing, as well as exciting. We’re here to help.
Bad: Having a new baby is always an exciting and happy time.

What does that mean?

• We speak simply and say it as it is.
• We don’t use jargon, spin or legalese.
• We’re open about mistakes and shortcomings.

Tips on putting that into practice

1. Use plain English and everyday words. No jargon.

Good: Do not give aspirin to a child who has chickenpox.
Bad: Aspirin is contraindicated in children with chickenpox.

Good: We pay the GPs, dentists, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who provide free or reduced-cost services to the public.
Bad: The division supports the delivery of primary healthcare by providing reimbursement services to primary care contractors for the provision of health services to members of the public in their own community.

2. Say ‘we’ when we apologise; take responsibility.

Good: We’re sorry that our service was not available for 3 hours yesterday. This is because… 
Bad: Yesterday’s service outage is now resolved.

3. Be clear about limitations.

Good: To apply: 1. fill in the form online 2. print it 3. post it
Bad: Apply online now!