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"Customer"

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 18 June 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they consider the word "customer" is appropriate when referring to patients in the NHS and passengers on public and private transport; and, if not, whether they will instruct government departments and agencies to cease the use of the word in such contexts. [HL2193]

Various terms are used to describe the users of public services, depending on the nature of the service in question. We do not intend to issue central guidance on this point as it is a matter for departments and agencies to consider in the light of their particular circumstances. What is important is that services are designed to meet the user's needs, that they are of a high quality, and that users are consulted on how services might be improved.In the case of the NHS, the Department of Health promotes the term "users", as this encompasses both the patients and patients' carers whom they serve.The Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions and the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF) both favour the term "passengers". But it is left to privatised transport providers to decide which term is most suitable for them.