To determine which terms receivers of mental health services wish to be known by (service user, patient, client, user, survivor) according to the professional consulted (psychiatrist, nurse, psychologist, social worker, occupational therapist). We conducted a questionnaire study to assess terms by like or dislike and by rank order. There were 336 participants from local catchment area secondary care community and in-patient settings in east Hertfordshire.
Patient is the preferred term when consulted by psychiatrists and nurses, but it is equally preferable to client for social workers and occupational therapists. Service user is disliked more than liked overall, particularly by those who consulted a health professional, but not by those who consulted a social worker. A significant minority wish to be regarded as a survivor or user.
National and local mental health services should adopt evidence-based terminology in referring to ‘patient’ or, in some groups, ‘patient or client’ in preference to ‘service user’.
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