There is debate on whether to call service users ‘patients’ or ‘clients,’ which mirrors an ongoing dialogue in the medical literature. The researchers conducted a questionnaire survey in five UK centers of clinic attendees and staff to assess their preference.

One thousand four hundred twenty-eight clinic attendees and 250 staff members completed questionnaires. No staff member opted for ‘customer’ or ‘user’ as the preferred term. The difference between a preference for ‘patient’ between doctors and nurses was statistically significant, with most doctors preferring the word ‘patient’. Out of a total of 84 nurses, there was an equal preference for ‘patient’ and ‘client’. Comments from attendees and staff who responded generally emphasized the concept of the health professional’s ‘caring’ role towards people attending the services.

The study concluded that most people attending sexual health clinics and medical and clerical staff working in these services expressed a preference to retain the title of ‘patient’. The primary justification for this appeared to relate to the concept of caring for people. Therefore, the authors conclude that the terminology in sexual health services should revert to predominantly using the term ‘patient’.