- You should be able to see a doctor on your own
- If you are under 16, a doctor might ask about why you don’t want to have an adult with you, and check that you are safe
- Sometimes, you can get help and information about medical problems from other places, not just the doctor
You can see a doctor on your own at any age – but if you’d like your parent or carer to be with you, that will be fine too. Until you are 16, a doctor or nurse might be worried about why you don’t want to have a parent or carer with you, but if you want to see the doctor on your own, they should respect that.
Unless it’s an emergency, the usual way to go about getting help for a medical problem is to see your GP. GPs are doctors in the community who can give general medical advice about a wide range of problems. They can give you a prescription if you need particular medicine. They can also send you to a more specialist doctor, or a clinic which specialises in particular problems, if this is what you need.
If you are 16 or older, you can register with a GP yourself. If you’re under 16, normally your parents, or carer will make sure you are registered with a GP. You don’t have to be registered with the same GP as your parents or carer. If you want to register with a GP without your parents or carer knowing, you should still be able to do this, but the doctor may want to ask you some more questions about why you want to do this, and to check that you are safe.
If there’s an emergency, you may need to go to hospital, to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. If you can’t get yourself to hospital, you can call for an ambulance to help you. If there’s an emergency – if you’ve been seriously injured or burnt, or if someone you are with is unconscious or having difficulty breathing, you can call 999 for emergency help.
If you are taken to hospital in an emergency, or your GP sends you to see a doctor at hospital, you can still ask to see the doctor on your own if you would prefer.
Once you are registered with a GP, you usually need to make an appointment to see him or her and talk about what’s bothering you. You can do this by going to the GP surgery, or by phoning them. Some GPs allow you to make appointments online too, although you will probably have to set up an online account to do this. You may be able to see the doctor the same day, or you may have to wait.
Even if you are registered at the same doctor as your parents or carer, and you are under 16, you can still see the doctor on your own. The doctor (or nurse) might try and find out why you don’t want a parent with you, but you don’t have to tell them.
Although you can see the doctor on your own to talk to them about any problem you have, the doctor might want an adult to agree to any examination or treatment that you might need.
The doctor has to be sure that you fully understand the advice he or she needs to give you, what the treatment involves and what could happen. This is called ‘having capacity’. Every doctor has to be careful that anyone they treat has capacity – sometimes adults won’t have capacity, so this isn’t just about how old you are. If you have ‘capacity’, you can agree to treatment without an adult present. if you agree to treatment, this is called ‘consent’.
Once you are 16, you can give your own consent. Depending on what the medical problem is and the treatment you need, you may well be able to give your own consent when you are younger than 16. The doctor has a duty to make sure you have capacity to make a decision in every situation. If you need treatment for something quite straightforward you may have capacity to consent to the treatment, but you may not have the capacity to make a decision in a more complicated situation.
If you are under 16 and have capacity but you don’t want to have treatment, the doctor may decide to talk to your parents anyway, if he or she thinks the treatment is in your best interests. You can find out more about this here.
Your medical information is personal to you, and once you’re 12, you can tell your doctor that you don’t want anyone else to see your medical information. If your doctor thinks that someone else has to be involved to give consent for any treatment you might need, that person will need information about the treatment you need. This doesn’t mean that person should be able to see all your medical records – only what they need to be able to give consent. You can find out more about this here.
There are phone numbers you can ring to get advice about medical problems.
NHS Direct Wales 0845 46 47 is the phone number to call if you feel unwell but it’s not an ‘emergency’. You may speak to a nurse first and then a doctor may call you back. You will need to provide some details about yourself. You can speak to a doctor or get information in Welsh or English.
If you don’t think you need to see a doctor but want to know more about a medical issue, you can use an online resource provided by the National Health Service.
There is lots of information online about health problems, but if something doesn’t feel right or you are worried about something, you should see a doctor who will be able to examine you and use their knowledge and experience to help you.
If your doctor thinks you need a particular medicine he or she will give you a prescription which is a document you take to a chemist or pharmacy where you can get the medicine. Sometimes the chemist or pharmacy will be in the same place as the doctor’s surgery, sometimes it will be somewhere else. In Wales, no one has to pay for prescriptions. So if your doctor in Wales has given you a prescription for a medicine, you will not have to pay for the medicine as long as you get it from a pharmacy in Wales.
We are very grateful to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for generously giving their time and expertise to check the content of this section of the website. October 2018.