Acute trusts speak more bull than commissioners, according to a thoroughly unscientific study using a Microsoft Word gadget.

The Bullfighter tool rates any document you feed it based on a blacklist of jargon and the Flesch Reading Ease scale, a widely used measure calculated from sentence length and syllable-per-word rate.

I have applied the Bullfighter, suggested by notoriously vocal reader Anonymous, to the 2007-08 annual reports of five randomly selected trusts and their home commissioners.

The results:

Bull composite index, 0 (poor - more bull and less readable) - 10 (excellent - less bull and more readable)
Whittington Hospital trust5.5
Islington PCT5.9
Hinchingbrooke Health Care trust6.1
Cambridgeshire PCT5.1
University College London Hospitals foundation trust4.7
Camden PCT6.4
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals trust6.5
Brighton and Hove PCT5.4
The Royal Marsden foundation trust5
Kensington and Chelsea PCT5.8
PCT average5.72
Trust average5.56

On the overall Bull Composite Index, everyone comes in around the middle. Whether middling is enough for a document designed for simplicity and access is open to question.

Pitting trusts against PCTs locally, the commissioners triumph in three out of five cases. On average, PCTs are superior by just 0.16 points on the main bull index.

For communications teams poring over this year’s round of annual reports – and the amusement of others – it may be useful to highlight some specific examples of bull picked up by the gadget.

Common but fairly inoffensive culprits include “stakeholders” – Bullfighter suggests “vampire slayers” as an alternative – and “benchmark”.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals trust did well overall but suffered heavily for an instance of “going forward” - a particular bugbear of both the Bullfighter and myself. The programme sarcastically advised: “[‘Going forward’ is] your best option. Time-travel into the past isn’t reliable enough yet. Trust us. Or we would have sent you back to grade school English class.”

Unfortunately for commissioners, one regular culprit may be unavoidable given the policy context. “A tired expression that has lost its meaning,” is how Bullfighter described “world class”. “Whenever someone says something is world class, it isn’t.”

Suggestions for translations of “benchmark”, “stakeholders”, “empowering” and “world class”, along with other top NHS jargon, would be welcome below.