Healthcare and medical treatment

When can I receive medical advice or treatment on my own?

From the age of 16 you can receive medical treatment on your own.  You can receive medical advice or treatment at any age but only if the doctor or nurse believes that you fully understand what the treatment involves.

If the doctor or nurse does not think that you understand the consequences of the treatment then they may request the consent of your parents or guardian before they treat you.

If you are under 16, your parents or guardian will have to register you with a doctor (GP). Once you reach the age of 16, you can choose your own GP.

Is a doctor or nurse allowed to tell anyone about something I say to them?

A doctor or nurse cannot tell anyone about what you say to them, unless they are worried about your safety or if you are likely to endanger the safety of others.

If the doctor or nurse has a concern that you are at risk of harm or you are being harmed, for example in situations involving domestic or sexual abuse, he or she has to inform the relevant authority in order to keep you safe.  If you are under the age of 16, this duty is mandatory.

What if I want medical treatment and my parents or guardian refuse?

You will be able to receive medical treatment without the consent of your parents or guardian if the doctor or nurse thinks that you are mature enough to understand the consequences of the treatment.

If the doctor or nurse thinks that you do not understand the consequences of the treatment and your parents or guardian do not give consent then the treatment will not be given

Can I ever refuse medical treatment?

Aged 18 and over – No one can make you have any treatment that you do not want.

Under the age of 18 – Your doctor, your parents or your guardian can make an application to court for an order to make you accept treatment. This does not happen often and will only happen in serious cases where someone’s life may be at risk. The court will make an order that is in your best interests.

Can I get advice on sexual health, even if my parents or guardian do not want me to?

You can go and see your doctor or nurse for advice on sexual health and contraception at any age. If you are under the age of 16, a doctor can give you contraception without telling your parents as long as they think that you understand the possible risks.

The doctor will only tell your parents or guardian if they believe you to be at risk of harm. For example, if they think that you are at risk of sexual abuse. However, they must talk to you first to let you know that they are going to be telling someone else.

Can I donate blood or organs?

You can only donate blood if you fully understand what is involved.

If you are under 18 you can donate your body and organs when you die. If you are under 16 you need your parents’ consent to carry a donor card and your parents will need to agree to your organs being used after death.

Do I have to pay for medicine?

If you’re under 16 you can get free prescriptions. If you are aged 16-18 and are in full time education your prescriptions are also free. Prescriptions for contraception, such as the pill, are always free regardless of your age.

Useful organisations

Brook Advisory Centre – www.brook.org.uk

Great Ormond Street Hospital – advice for children – http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/children