Teen Health

This section is just for teenagers or young adults and is full of information you’d like to know but might be afraid to ask.

When you are young, your parents are usually involved in your health care. They may make decisions for you, and speak to health workers on your behalf. But as you get older you have more rights. You can decide if you want your parents to be involved or not. This information explains your rights once you are thought to be old enough to make your own decisions about your health care information.

Can I see the GP or nurse on my own?

Did you know that if you want to see a doctor or nurse you don’t always have to have your parents with you, or even their permission to come here and be seen?

Different people are ready at different ages to see a doctor or a nurse alone, and legally there is no set age to be seen without your parents. You can come alone or can even bring them along and leave them in the waiting room if you wanted to be seen by the clinician on your own.

But what if…

I am over 18?

There’s nothing to worry about.  Legally you’re an adult now and your parents don’t have to give permission for any type of treatment, nor are they able to discuss your records / conditions with the doctor unless they have your permission.

I am 16 or 17?

The situation is almost the same as when you are 18. The doctor will just have to make sure that you are ‘competent’ to make decisions about your own treatment. This simply means that you are able to understand the treatment and the effects it might have on you.

I am under 16…? 

The law says that you can make your own decisions about having treatment. This includes getting contraception, and also discussing / having an abortion, without your parent’s permission. This will generally be the case if:

  • You are regarded as ‘competent’ – This means that you have to clearly understand the treatment you will be receiving, and also how it will affect you.
  • Your health will suffer if you don’t receive this treatment, and that the treatment is in your best interests.

So if you are 17 or under, the GP will have a chat with you about the problem, the treatment and will try to make an assessment through this discussion as to whether you are ‘competent’ to make the decision yourself. They will probably ask you why you don’t want your parents or care givers to know, and may suggest talking it through with them first. It is worth remembering however that no doctor can persuade or force you to tell your parents about the treatment that you are having.

Doctors also cannot tell your parents about your treatment (even if you are under 16) if you don’t want them to, apart from in very exceptional circumstances – see below for more details. This is called doctor-patient confidentiality, and all clinicians are legal bound by it.

This discussion and decision might sound a bit intimidating or scary but don’t let it put you off, GPs really are concerned about your health and want to make sure that everyone, including teenagers, can come to see their doctor without worrying. Your doctor will almost certainly be very kind and very sympathetic – if you would like to see a particular doctor, be it one you know or just specifically a lady or a man, just mention it to reception when you book the appointment and it can be arranged.

When did you say they would tell my parents?

As we said, anything you discuss with the clinician; any treatment you’ve had, any results or medicines, stays confidential. This means that the doctors, nurses, receptionists on the phones or behind the desk… anyone who works at the practice must not pass on any information about you, or any other patient, to anyone who does not have your permission to hear it.

Even if you are under 16, nothing can be said to anyone – not your parents or anyone in your family, your care workers, tutors or teachers, without your permission unless safeguarding concerns are identified.

But what if I’m spotted?

If you have to visit the surgery ….we’re sorry, there’s no way around this difficulty… Unfortunately, another patient might mention to your parents that they saw you in the waiting room so you should always be prepared for a question or two… Same goes for the pharmacy, but you could try to time it for when the shop is empty. Like the doctors and nurses, pharmacists are legally bound to keep any information about your prescriptions confidential.

Can I bring someone else instead?

Please do!  We would in fact encourage you to bring someone with you, if it’s a friend from school or college, an older brother or sister or even an adult friend. It just has to be someone you trust, and someone you don’t mind talking about your problem in front of. Like your parents though, you can leave them in the waiting room if you just want them there for moral support.

Did you know that we can text you, to remind you about appointments?

Revision, essays, feeding your homework to the dog, that cinema trip next week… We get that your life is busy!  We can send you a little reminder to your phone 24 hours before your appointment.

If your Mum or Dad has given us their mobile number for your records (you might have been with us since you were little, when you relied on Mum and Dad for everything), THEY will be the ones who get the text reminder… so it’s worth making sure we have your number on your record!  Just check with the receptionist.

Also, if you have conditions like Asthma, we’ll send you a text around your birthday to invite you in for your annual review. We will also text in September/October, letting you know that we have the flu vaccinations in, and to book for your appointment.

Cancelling an appointment

If you get your appointment reminder but realise you aren’t going to be able to make it, don’t worry….it’s okay to cancel.  Just text back the word cancel – the appointment is then automatically freed up ready for someone else to book.

Medical Care as a student away from home

It’s important to look after your health when moving away from home for the first time. This includes registering with a new GP and finding your local sexual health service.

If, like most students, you spend more weeks of the year at your university/college address than your family’s address, you need to register with a GP near your university/college as soon as possible.

That way you can receive emergency care if you need it, and access health services quickly and easily while you’re away.

This is especially important if you have an ongoing health condition, particularly one that needs medicine, such as asthmadiabetes or epilepsy.

You can choose to register with any local GP. The health centre attached to your university is likely to be the most convenient, and the doctors working there will be experienced in the health needs of students.

Other health services available

Having trouble getting an appointment? You can also always ask your local pharmacist for medical advice and support.

They may not be at the pharmacy counter when you go in, so ask the person at the counter if you can speak to the pharmacist.

Getting ill during the holidays

If you become unwell or need other medical treatment when you’re at home or not staying near your university GP, you can contact your nearest practice to ask for treatment.

You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.

Find out how to register as a temporary resident with a GP

You can also visit an NHS urgent treatment centre, which can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes.

However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or life-threatening problems. You do not need an appointment and you do not need to be registered.