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NHS Reprimanded for Demeaning Words

Ministers and NHS Staff use demeaning terms such as "frequent flyers" and "bed-blockers", to describe patients//, according to patients' tsar.

The national director for patients and the public, Harry Cayton said such negative words shifted blame to patients and should be avoided, according to the Royal Society of Medicine journal.

The NHS was accused of commonly using terms such as frequent flyers referring to patients who are in and out of hospital and bed-blockers.

The Department of Health has stated that it would take the comments on board.

Referring to the term frequent flyers Mr Cayton, , said, "It implies that somehow these people want regular trips to hospital, that they are collecting points, that they enjoy the health and life-threatening roundabout of continual admission, treatment and discharge."

Terms such as bed-blockers, shifted the blame to the patient from the NHS. Other examples included referring to those who do not turn up for appointments as "DNAs". Words like "dement" was also used to describe somebody with Alzheimer's disease.

He added: "Labeling people in this way is the most common way in which the NHS dehumanizes those it is supposed to care for."

According to him most of the language was used to describe elderly people, possibly reflecting an ageist culture. "Older people generally use the health service most often but they are also sometimes the least able to speak up for themselves, the most vulnerable."

Mr Cayton empathized with the health workers need to create distance due to the stresses of the job, but said that they should find other ways of achieving that distance.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is important that we are sensitive to the terms patients do not find acceptable. Harry Cayton is one of our very valued National Directors and an incredibly experienced champion for patients' rights. We welcome his views and will take this feedback on board."


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