11/12/13 Patient? PATIENT? I’d love to be called a patient.

I was a social worker in the early noughties when we were told that our punters were to be, from here on in, described as ‘clients’.

That’ll help them, I thought. Rebrand the users of the social work service and all will be well.

Deck chairs on the Titanic anyone?

What does the word,’Client’ imply to you?

I won’t beat about this particular bush for too long – the word ‘Client’, to my mind, implies choice.

An experience that local authorities don’t exude when allocating someone a social worker.

Ok, I think that experience has improved over time – but I think the somewhat grandiose title, ‘client’, over eggs the cake a bit.

So what’s in a name? The Royal College of Psychiatrists have decided to put the label, ‘Service User’ to one side, favouring ‘Patient’ as the title for their punters.

Their reasoning?

Well, names like ‘service user’ and ‘person with lived experience’, they feel, have been generated by a self appointed militant few amongst the loony hordes.

Further, they believe, that the heady title, ‘patient’ gives folk with mental health problems parity with their physically ill counterparts.

Super! Does that mean we’ll get the same 14 week guaranteed waiting time between diagnosis and treatment?

Does that mean the thousands of folk who get a mentally ill diagnosis with no treatment at all will finally achieve that heady accolade of ‘patient’?

Did the psychiatrists have lengthy chats with their punters before changing the label?

I’ve a feeling their answers will be, ‘No,’ ‘no,’ and, ‘That’s political correctness gone mad…er…sorry,’
A parity of name here is, at best, meaningless; at worst, cynical.

If it were to mean equal services for all I’d be happy to be called, ‘Melvyn the chicken juggler’.

Not for long though, just for a trial period.

For the people waiting years for services, for those getting no services, national health or otherwise, what they’re called by a professional body is the least of their problems.

Walk a mile


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2 Responses to 11/12/13 Patient? PATIENT? I’d love to be called a patient.

  1. Kim says:

    I completely understand your point but at least “patient” implies you’re there because you have a health difficulty. I always thought “client” sounded like one was shopping; a bit too much like ‘customer’. “I’ve been to Tesco and I thought I’d just pop in here on on my way back to the car to get my serious mental health issues sorted”!! As for “service user”, well it’s rather like a term for a user of a broadband network. Difficult!

    • Thanks for this – I remember the word ‘user’ was synonymous with ‘waster’ – I’m not sure – my current goal is to walk around the edge of the UK to highlight the experiences of folk with a mental health problem – I’m walking around the edge because that’s where folk often feel they are. I’ve encountered all kinds of labels on my way – loony, mad, crazy – and, you don’t look like one. Language doesn’t matter at all to me – it’s people’s attitudes that matter to me – if I take offence with the people I meet then I stop the one thing I’m hoping for – communication. I’ve walked around Scotland (anti clockwise) and when I return to the walk I’ll be in north Wales. People have been fabulous

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