28 Sep 2007

Doctors told take young seriousl

BBC News, UK - September 27, 2007

Doctors must do more to respect the wishes and views of young patients, the General Medical Council has warned.

Children should be involved directly in discussions about their care and given the same rights to confidentiality as adults, new guidance recommends.

It comes after a consultation found children do not always feel doctors take them seriously.

However, the guidelines say doctors have a duty to inform others if there is any indication of serious harm.

This is the first time the GMC has specifically laid out the roles and responsibilities of doctors when treating those under the age of 18 years - accounting for over a fifth of the UK population.

The guide reinforces the position that under 16s should have confidential access to sexual health and contraception services.

But that doctors should share information with authorities like the police or social services if a child is being abused, harmed or threatened into having sex, or under the age of 13, the GMC said.

The recommendations also state that children and young people should be directly involved in discussions about have their care and their views taken seriously.

Cultural or religious beliefs or values should be taken into account when assessing what is in the child's best interests.

Also it should also be made clear to children and young people that they can access healthcare services without their parents present if that is what they want.

And children should be given appropriate information about their condition and treatment.

Vulnerable group

The recommendations were put together after a three-month consultation with 350 children and young people and 600 doctors, parents and organisations.

Professor Sir Graeme Catto, GMC president, said: "This document recognises that children are individuals with rights that should be respected."

Dr Patricia Hamilton, president, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said all doctors, whatever their speciality, have responsibility for children and young people at some stage in their professional lives.

"This is an important step forward in ensuring the medical profession recognises that children are not just 'little adults' and that their specific needs should be met accordingly."

Luziane Tchiegue-Nouta, Acting Lewisham Young Mayor, aged 16, said: "Young people need to know that they can see their doctor in confidence.

"It is important that they are treated as patients in their own right."

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of CLIC Sargent, the children's cancer charity, said anything that prompts medical professionals to discuss treatment options directly with young people should be encouraged.

"There is some fantastic practice in pockets of the country but it is vital that all sick children are given the opportunity to get involved in decisions about their treatment, and that their wishes are taken into account and treated with respect."


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