Update: HSE's guidance on pet names is 'off-the-wall stuff', says consultant

Update - 12.45pm: A Consultant Ophthalmologist thinks the HSE has bigger fish to fry rather than focussing on how employees refer to patients.

Michael O'Keefe, a consultant at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, was referring to new guidelines encouraging staff to think carefully about how they address patients, so that conversations with patients are "person-centred", for example by including their first names rather than 'pet names'.

The communications programme encouraging staff to consider how they communicate with patients has been rolled out in 18 hospitals around the country and is expected to be extended to others in the coming months.

Dr O'Keefe, who said the programme was "PC gone mad", said: "This is another example of political correctness gone totally mad. And then when you see it's now being implemented by the HSE at a time when there are no beds, patients can't get in, there are record numbers on trolleys, no follow-up appointments, no out-patient appointments, it is just off-the-wall stuff."

The Irish Patients Association said it was important that hospital staff get the right balance between being over familiar and clinical.

Stephen McMahon from the Irish Patients Association has said sometimes a pet name goes a long way.

He said: "We don't want a healthcare system that is absolutely clinical and cold. We have to respect the needs of patients and sometimes the relationship of a nurse or a doctor or other allied professions - by the way they interact with a patient in an empathetic way - can actually make their journey a little bit easier."

Earlier: HSE issues guidance on use of 'dear', 'love', 'girls' and 'boys' in addressing patients

The HSE has issued guidelines to staff encouraging them to think carefully about how they address patients, so that conversations with patients are "person-centred", for example by including their first names rather than 'pet names', where that is more appropriate. Staff are being encouraged to think about the issue, and use their best judgment depending on the circumstance.

The communications programme has been rolled out in 18 hospitals around the country and is expected to be extended to others in the coming months.

Under new guidance issued to HSE staff, the body says: "...Current activities include participants and their colleagues undertaking language exercises to look at the language they use day to day and whether or not it is person-centred, for example, are people referred to by bed/ room numbers or diagnosis? Are collective names used where the person’s name would be more appropriate, do they use pet names such as dear or love, girls, boys, lads etc instead of the patients/colleagues names?

There is also a warning on referring to patients by their bed number or their ailment such as "the one with the hip".

The Listening, Responding and Improving report can be read .

This article was amended on December 4 to reflect the HSE guidance does not have the status of a new rule, or restriction, on staff.

- Digital Desk

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