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16th March 2017

What’s in a name? and why do CQC care?


When I gave birth to my first child, the midwife did not say my name. I was ‘darlin’, even when I was actually giving birth all I could hear was ‘just a little bit more darlin’. I was extremely vulnerable and unable to say ‘My name is Abi! Please say my name. Please let me know you know that’s my name’. I have done that a thousand times since in my head, but never got the chance to do it then.

How we approach people is an important thing. What can be endearing to one person can be deeply grating or even offensive to another. Some people are able to say what they do and don’t like, however, some are unable to out of shyness and others just can’t.


This was a topic of conversation a couple of years ago when a residential home with services for people with a learning disability was criticised for their use of ‘love’ and ‘handsome’ by an inspector in a CQC report.

The media were interested in this and opinion was divided. CQC Chief Inspector Andrea Sutcliffe wrote a blog about it which can be found here. Andrea’s point was that this was one of a number of things that, grouped together, displayed a lack of a person-centred approach - that giving people choice was what was important.

Nickname or nicked name?

I once inspected a home where the manager had a nickname for everyone.  It was not meant in a detrimental way, but speaking to residents, it was not always appreciated and not asked for. One particular name referred to the person’s size, and as an inspector, I followed this up and used it as evidence.

A local thing

Where I come from ‘My lover’ and ‘My darlin’ are terms of endearment, but, what happens when people come into our sphere who are not local or do not want a person who does not know them or is much younger in years to be over familiar?

Do you get my meaning?

Terms of endearment can be just that in one place, but mean something completely different elsewhere.

It can be difficult if we have always used terms at home, and they are meant with the best intentions and simply slide off of the tongue.  How can we check in our working environment?

  1. The first thing is to simply ask – As part of getting to know a new resident you should, of course, ask them how they would like to be referred to. This should be in their care plan. Sometimes people may actually say what they do not want to be called.
  2. If you are unable to ask, the next-of-kin may be able to help. Bear in mind that it would be worth asking not just how they would refer to them, but what friends and acquaintances would.
  3. Try and remember that names give people an identity, and if that is shifting for an individual, taking it away from them may be adding to the confusion.
  4. If you slip up, don’t worry. Just like anybody, I would always say I am sorry – or do you mind? They may actually be happy to be referred to as ‘poppet’ as you get to know them, but the point is, like anyone – don’t presume!

My husband has just told me today he was called ‘darlin’ ‘love’ and ‘duck’. He says he prefers Matthew… I say we get his name changed by deed poll!

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Abi Spence

Registration and Inspection Specialist

Abi has worked for and with Government agencies relevant to social care for the past 12+ years. Primarily with the Department of Health, Social Services Inspectorate, Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and since its inception the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As part of this long involvement Abi has developed a wide and detailed understanding of relevant issues and has worked closely with stakeholders such as people that use services, carers, providers, local government, the Department of Health, Ofsted and the Audit Commission. Read more

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