Rights and confidentiality
Everyone has rights when seeing the GP, which include confidentiality (privacy) and being seen on their own if they want.
Young people’s rights also include:
• giving consent to treatment and being given the information to make choices
• equal treatment regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability
• being able to take someone with them (including a friend)
• giving feedback or making a complaint
Here’s a summary of young people’s rights from the NHS Youth Forum.
Appointments with the GP are confidential (private) regardless of a person’s age, which means that everything a patient tells a doctor or nurse, including their personal details and medical records, are kept completely private.
However, in some cases, a GP might encourage a patient to tell others (like a parent) about the problem. A GP can also speak to someone like a parent (for example) on the patient’s behalf. This may be because it’s important for those looking after a person to know what’s going on in case they can help or support them.
A doctor should respect a patient’s wishes if they don’t want to tell a parent or guardian. If a patient is under 16 the doctor can treat them without telling their parents, but it is good to fully understand the choices you’re making.
In exceptional cases, like when a health professional thinks a young person might be in serious danger, for example of harming themselves or being harmed by others, they may need to pass information to police or social services. Even then, they must talk to the person first before they tell anyone else, unless that would put someone at risk of harm.
Surgery staff, such as receptionists, are never told of a patient’s confidential consultations (appointments), but they do have access to people’s records so that they can type letters and carry out other admin duties. They’re not allowed to look at patients’ notes for any other purpose, nor are they allowed to discuss any information about patients outside work.
The receptionist might ask questions when someone makes an appointment but no one has to give them any details if they don’t want to. Sometimes, it can help the receptionist direct them to the best person, whether that’s a GP, nurse, or another member of the team.