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J R Soc Med. 2006 October; 99(10): 486.
PMCID: PMC1592059

Patients, clients or just people?

Your correspondent Gerald Feaver (July 2006 JRSM1) should not believe everything he reads. Over the Easter weekend earlier this year, an item in one of our board papers was misquoted by a news agency who then made a lot of money by selling a silly story about political correctness when clearly not much else was happening to various national newspapers. You can see what was really said at [].

I have never ‘ordered’ staff working at Sussex Partnership NHS Trust to refer to the people using our services by any term, be it patient, client or anything else. Like most leaders, I know that issuing orders is both rude and ineffective. However, what people have told us is that when they are in our hospitals, they like to be referred to as patients, but when they are being supported in their own homes, as the vast majority are for most of the time, they like to be called people. I believe we should respect their wishes, and not assume that, because someone has a particular problem or diagnosis, they cease to be a person with wants and needs like anyone else. In the rest of his letter, Mr Feaver seems to agree that everyone has a right to such choice, so we are in danger of vigorously agreeing with each other.


Competing interests None declared.


1. Feaver G. Miss, mister, doctor: how we are titled is of little consequences. J R Soc Med 2006;99: 333 [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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