Seeing the GP with a parent or alone
• going to the doctors’ with a parent or family member
• when parents wait outside the room
• going alone or with a friend
Going to the doctors’ with a parent or family member
Young people who were still at school often saw the GP (local doctor) with a parent, usually their mum. Lara, aged 14, said she’d always gone to the doctors’ with her mum, like her sister Paula who was 17. Peter also went to the surgery with his mum but wouldn’t mind if he had to go on his own. Gentian and Kyle were happy to go on their own, too, if they needed to, though Gentian felt that he might be a bit nervous the first time.
- Gentian is at school and lives with his parents and older brother. Ethnic background / nationality: Albanian.
Have you ever been actually on your own to the doctor, or not yet?
Not yet, no
Would you feel comfortable going or you prefer going with your mum, what would you…what do you think's most comfortable.
I'd prefer going with either of my parents but I wouldn’t mind…I like…it wouldn’t be bad if I went by myself.
Would you feel a bit nervous going, or how would you feel if you had to go by yourself?
I'd be a bit like nervous for the first time I reckon, but if I went like more than once by myself, I'd be fine I think.
And do you feel that doctors listen to young people around your age, or could they be better?
I don’t know. They listen to what we had to say in terms of what like what's wrong with us. But I don’t know if they like take into consideration what we actually think, like not really sure but....
Paula and Hazzan recalled that their mums usually talked to the GP during the consultation (appointment) and they only spoke if they were asked a question. Kyle usually saw the GP with his dad or grandmother, whoever was free at the time, while Ambeya went to appointments with her dad when she was under 16 as her mum was ill. She sometimes found this hard and preferred going with her aunt:
- Ambeya is a student and cares for her mum, who has mental health problems. She lives at home with her parents and two brothers. Ethnic background / nationality: British Bangladeshi.
It was awkward because obviously, say if there was…say if there was something I wanted to go to the doctors for and it was something girly, and my dad would have to come, where the doctor used to ask me, "OK, what's happened?" It had to get to the point where I'd have to tell my dad to like leave the room because I would like to speak to the doctor personally.
But then it's just the awkwardness after my appointment when I have to go and pick up the medication and stuff; like my dad will ask me, "Is everything OK?" And it's just…it just creates a sense of awkwardness, like you can't even talk to your own family about issues that you have, so yeah. That’s why I think, because of the awkwardness and because of the awkwardness after when it comes to picking up medication and stuff, I used to try and get my auntie to come with me to the doctors.
Mm yeah, mm that’s interesting.
And could you talk to your auntie about the issues or have you got any sisters or are you the oldest so…. ?
Yeah, I'm the oldest in the family and I'm the only girl, so it's just brothers, so I can't really talk to them about it.
Occasionally Ambeya asked her dad to wait outside when she wanted to speak to the doctor by herself. Young people often felt that GPs could ask parents or guardians to wait outside or leave the room at the end of the consultation so they could speak to the doctor alone if they want to. In rural areas (like villages), it can be really important that young people can see the GP on their own as they don’t have the opportunity to register at a different surgery and will need a lift. Aphra pointed out that it can be difficult for teenagers who go to see the GP in a place where ‘everybody knows each other’. Peter, like other people, felt that young patients might ‘dull it down’ when they’re talking to the GP in front of their parents in case they worry about them afterwards.
- Peter is at school and lives with his parents and older sister. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
Now I'd probably go, still go with my mum, but I …that’s mainly only for the filling out of forms really and parental signature, so I'd almost prefer to go by myself if you see, but you still go with your parents I think.
What sort of forms has she had to fill in over the years?
Just the general, have your medical needs changed and any medication that you're taking, that kind of thing. And also for if you have to take a prescription and to sign for that, and just sort of all the general forms.
Well it's quite interesting that you mentioned in a way you wouldn’t mind going on your own, cos quite a few people do say something like that. What would be the advantages of going on your own?
I think it removes the awkwardness of your parents being there, especially if it's sort of something that you should have dealt with before and they’ve always been telling you to deal with it, or you haven’t been taking any medication that you should have been. And like it just removes that because it's just you and the doctor, and they're not there.
But then it can be comforting for them to be there at times. But it's easier when it's just you and the doctor because you can speak about what's actually going on rather than sort of in a way dulling it down so your parents don’t get worried at all.
Yeah. So, have you actually ever been by yourself or not yet?
No, I haven’t been yet; haven't been for a while but, you know, I think if I had to go next time I might go on my own. Or you might do one of those, you know where you have your whole family go and you just go in one at a time so that they're in the waiting room waiting, but you're in the surgery on your own.
Have you had any appointments like that where the whole family has gone?
It's normally quite like that because it's easier to get a large booking rather than having to go one at a time each week or…it just disrupts everything less, so that’s the best way to do it normally.
- Sophie is at school and works part-time in retail. She lives at home with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
When you went to see this GP, did you go by yourself?
No, I went with my parents which was, yeah difficult because I hadn’t been talking to them that much about it so it kind of…
So you went with both your parents?
So it's…how did you feel before the appointment, do you remember?
Yeah, I was really like…I was quite distressed really. Yeah, I didn’t think it helped that both my parents were there. So I was pretty stressed and I was also…I think I was just kind of upset because I don’t want…I wanted to tell them but I didn’t want them to have to find out in that way I would have much rather kind of sat down with them at home and explain things. But it kind of felt like, not that it was forced upon me, but that was just the way it was going to happen whether I liked it or not. So....
Would you have liked to have gone to see the GP by yourself? Or with a friend?
Yeah, I think, I think had I gone by myself I think I would have probably just got really upset and I think it would have been quite nerve-wracking for me. But yeah, I think probably with a friend would have been better because, yeah as I say, it was just really difficult for my parents to find out in that way.
So…do you want a break, do you want some water?
Yeah, I might just blow my nose actually.
So, you went to the appointment with your GP, and I think you mentioned earlier that you found it difficult to speak about your feelings. Was it partly because your parents were there or were there other things as well?
Yeah, I think it was probably mainly that my parents were there. But also it was really difficult because I was speaking to the… this person that I'd only met like five minutes ago or so, and you know telling her quite personal things really. I just found that quite difficult, and so I think that was why I was…it was just really difficult for me to speak to her.
- Aphra works voluntarily to help improve cancer services in her area. She lives with her family. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
Well I went on my own at university all the time, I didn’t really have much of a choice. I could have probably took a friend but it never really crossed my mind. But either when I was going through my early stages of depression and things, I still chose to go on my own just because I felt that it was easier to talk to my GP about what I was feeling without having a family member there because I don’t want to worry anyone.
That’s an overarching feeling; it's natural that they're going to worry and there's nothing I can do about it. But at the same time I think if they heard all the thoughts that go through your head, then that’s the point where it'll become more of a problem. And obviously as well I don’t think I'd be so willing to be honest with my GP. So I think it's better for my health if I go on my own.
- Nikki is a student and lives with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
Should the GP ask, "Would you like to speak by yourself?" or things like that. Any thoughts on that sort of thing?
I think definitely they should always ask like if they want…if the person wants to speak to the GP by themselves, because like there have been times when I've went with my parents…with one of my parents, and then I've talked a complete load of rubbish because I did not feel comfortable about talking about anything realistic at all.
But then it, the times when I went by myself and that was still difficult as well. So I think the GP, or the health professional in general, should really just ask the young people what they feel like they need.
- Siobhan is doing her A Levels, and voluntary work in her free time. She lives with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
When you went the first time with your brother, did he come in the room with you as well?
Yeah, he were in there with me. Cos like I were a bit nervous. It were the first time I’d been with like a mental health issue.
So did you find it easier, easy to talk to the doctor? Or did you feel it hard to actually say everything that you wanted to say or…?
Yeah, I find it difficult to like talk just openly for the first time to like a stranger. Like that’s getting easier. But just to like go, “Well, I can’t eat a meal without wanting to, you know, make myself ill.” So that were difficult cos I was maybe like 14 at the time. So that was --
That’s pretty hard, isn’t it --
-- to talk openly to a complete stranger?
Yeah, cos that, that was really quite official, like they don’t really show any empathy. Cos they’re like focused on the job and that.
And your brother was there. Did he say anything as well? Or he sat quietly and listened?
Like when I were struggling for words and that, he helped. Cos I’ve, like struggle with my words. Like it’s almost dyslexia, but it’s not. So he helps me with like what word I’m looking for sometimes.
So that was a help?
Yeah. Or if I don’t wanna say a certain word cos I don’t like it and things like that, he’d like butt in for me. Or if I’ve not said summat that he thought was important, he’d say it.
- Vinay is a postgraduate student and lives in a shared house. Ethnic background / nationality: British Indian.
Did you go by yourself or did you go with your Mum or your Dad or somebody else?
I think Dad drove me down there, went with me as well.
So both of you went to the appointment. So can you remember what happened at the appointment? You spoke to the doctor? Was this a GP you’d seen before or somebody new?
Yeah, someone I’d known, yeah.
Someone you’d known, someone you’d seen before?
At a younger age?
And when you spoke to the GP were you doing most of the talking or was your Dad doing a lot of the talking?
I did the talk, he actually, Dad waited outside. So he just drove me down there. I did most of the talking. GP did a little bit, just kind of listened.
And is that how you usually have your appointments, where say your Mum or your Dad drive you there, and they wait outside while you go inside?
Yeah. How, has that always been the case?
I think when I was younger, they’d come in with me. But I think there’s a certain point where obviously, as we got into adolescence, they gave us more privacy. And then we’d tell them what we want after we leave.
Yeah. So did they, did you kind of talk about that? We need more privacy now, or is it something they said, “You’re old enough to now…”
Yeah I think it was just a given, an understanding.
- Susan is a medical student and lives in a shared house. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
So, as you got older from about sixteen onwards did you say?
Teenage years I would say, yeah.
You went to the GP by yourself. Was it something you discussed with your mum at all, or you just said, "Right, I'll make my own appointment." Can you remember how it might have come about that, first she used to go with you but then you started going on your own?
Yeah. I guess once I started driving it was really easy because I could get there myself. But I think I would normally talk to her about it. Obviously as I got older, like once I was at Uni, I’d just go. But yeah normally we'd talk about it.
So were you driving at that point, as a teenager?
Once I was eighteen yeah, yeah.
Before that did you go to the GP by yourself, walking, or taking the bus or, or your mum dropped you off and waited?
My mum would drop me off and she'd wait in the waiting room, yeah.
And when you went to see the GP by yourself at that age – I don’t know if you can remember – were you comfortable doing it, or looking forward to doing it, or did you have any thoughts about that at all, not having your mum there now and you were doing it on your own?
Yeah, I think to begin with I was quite nervous. I would never…I mean my mum kind of made me do it, I didn’t really want to. One thing is that I never really had a continuous GP, I'd often go and see different GPs. So, although I'd see one more regularly, it was very choppy and changey, which I think probably made it harder because they didn’t know me, so every time I'd be a bit worried like what are they going to think of me or whatever, yeah.
- Hannah is a hairdresser. She lives at home with her parents and 5-year-old son. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
When you go to the doctor now, you probably go on your own?
When you were younger you went with?
With your mum. At what age did you feel comfortable going by yourself?
Possibly about 15 or 16 which was when I think I started, I asked for the pill for the first time was when I was 16. I was probably worried about what my mum would say if I wanted to get the pill, so I went on my own. So yeah I guess about 15 or 16.
But again, like I said, I wasn’t luckily unwell or anything to have to go often, so I do remember going to the doctor with my mum because mum would say that I’m- like I’d got flu or something like that but never for anything that bad, so I guess yeah about 15 or 16.
Sometimes young people preferred seeing the GP with a friend or by themselves rather than with a parent. Sophie, for example, found it hard talking about mental health in front of her parents but felt she might have found it easier going to the appointment with a friend. She went to the second appointment by herself. Jalé, who was living with a long-term health problem, sometimes saw the GP with her mum and stepdad, sometimes with a friend, and occasionally on her own.
- Jalé is an ‘A’ level student and lives at home with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: Mixed Race (White British and Black Caribbean).
Have you always been to see the GP with someone, or do you sometimes go by yourself?
Every now and then I'll go by myself. I think at, say if I went on a ratio, say if I went like twenty times, I will probably only four times go by myself. And most of the time I'll go with…even if it's just a friend's support, just because sometimes it's quite difficult especially with something so complicated, it's quite easy to forget symptoms and forget moments. And if you're with someone who's with you all the time, they’ll be like, "Oh yeah, and also this is…" And it kind of helps you to remember it because it's just too much of it, and you know you're told to write stuff down, but you just don’t because you forget even that you’ve been told to write it down, let alone remember the symptom.
So sometimes it's helpful to have someone who's, you know, around a lot to talk to. And then just in general just for a bit of support when you're trying to get across what you're doing.
Do you prefer going with a friend or with parents, do you have any preference?
It depends what it is. When I go to the GP I'm quite happy to go with a friend because it's not that serious, and normally it's results on a blood test, or I'm just saying what's going on.
But it's when I see specialists and stuff like that, that’s when I prefer to have my parents because that’s when larger terminology is being used, and this test and that test and stuff has to be arranged. And that’s the sort of stuff where I kind of feel I need my parents because that’s when it kind of seems more serious because actually your parents are worried as well, and you know you're not just coming in because you’ve got a bit of stomach ache.
But when you're seeing a general practitioner it's just that, "OK what's the problems?" And they’ll send you to work out where you need to go next. Do you need a blood test, do you need that. So, it doesn’t seem too harsh.
Isaac used to see the GP with his mum or grandmother when he was younger but now goes on his own. He recalled that the doctor often spoke to the adult rather than to him, which he found annoying.
- Isaac is at college. He lives at home and helps cares for his mum. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
This time you went on your own. Were you sixteen or seventeen, can you remember or?
Seventeen, I remember being seventeen, yes.
Was that the first time you'd been on your own?
Yes, it was, which was ever so slightly concerning, and I was obviously…although I was seventeen it was still, I’ve never really been here on my own, what do I say to the doctor. I realised I had little experience talking to the doctor due to my experience with them of once I was with a parent, they just ignored me and spoke to them. So, I…luckily once I went in, they were friendly, they were nice, they helped me. So, yeah, I realised it's not that bad, but yes....
So did you make that appointment yourself as well?
No, my…my mother made the appointment for me but could not go with me so I went on my own to have it seen to.
And when you knew you were going on your own, how did you feel about that?
I was slightly stressed at the time – I was going somewhere I'd never been on my own and it was …it was something more serious than like other places; it was a GP, it was …yeah so I was slightly stressed at the time going in, going up to the counter and all that. But once I was in there with the doctor and they were nice and speaking to me, it was alright after that. But it can be stressful, yes going to the doctors and such, yeah.
So that was your very first time.
Did you ever go back after that by yourself or with anybody else?
No, I didn’t really need to no, no.
Say you needed to go again; you’ve already been once by yourself.
Would it be a little bit easier now or?
It would be easier, it would be easier cos I know what to do, I know the procedure. It's quite easier now I'm a bit older and such, so I would have no problem making an appointment and going again on my own if I needed to, yes.
- Simon is a university student. He lives at home with his parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
When you’re sixteen, you’re still classed as a child and mum and dad still have to sign for everything. And then once you become, there’s a bit of a haze between sixteen and eighteen until you become an adult.
And then once you become an adult, you sign the form, you give consent, and for some people who’ve perhaps never experienced, as a young person trying to build up those skills of self-management, it can be quite daunting to think, you know maybe I’ve not got any support now. It’s important that your parents are still there. You know, a lot of people who are adults and you know will still ask their parents because they’ve got a lot of good advice.
But it is quite daunting to have to realise that, ‘It’s me now.’ But that’s why it’s important for children and young people to start building up them skills from a young age so that when they do become sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, it’s not a big shock.
And it is quite hard for young people with long term conditions who are in paediatric care in specialist hospitals to then be transferred to an adult. And there’s this big thing in transition and I’m helping to shape research in transition to provide more young people with the opportunities to build up them skills from a young age.
Aaron felt comfortable seeing the GP by himself when he was at Uni as well as at a younger age. His friend’s mum was a receptionist at the surgery and often knew beforehand that he’d come in because of a sports injury.
- Aaron is a statistician and lives in a shared house. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
Sometimes it would just be me who went in. My mum would drop me off and she’d rush off somewhere. Or yeah sometimes my mum would go in with me when it’s a bit more serious. But yeah, she [GP] usually spoke to me, which was good. Or she’d speak to my mum and explain it to me after, so.
Did you feel comfortable asking questions?
Yeah, yeah it was, I think I was quite shy when I was younger, so I probably didn’t ask that many questions. But yes she, looking back on it like, it was fine.
And you mentioned that sometimes you also went by yourself, your mum dropped you off.
Can you remember how old you were, you know, when you went to the doctors by yourself?
I would have been around, around 15 I would say. Yeah, once my mum had started her job that she’s in now. Yeah, about that sort of age.
And can you remember going there by yourself? Have you got any memories of that time?
Yeah, I remember, I remember I walked in and I, at the receptionist desk, I knew the woman behind the reception desk. She was actually my friend’s mum so I’d see her and then I’d say what I was there for or who I was seeing, but yeah it was all fine.
Did you feel comfortable that it was your friend’s mum or did it make it a bit more unnerving or uneasy in any way?
Yeah it was fine because I didn’t have stuff that would have made it embarrassing or anything. Mine were mainly just sport injuries so I guess, I mean I played football with her son, so most of the time she knew about them anyway before I went in. So yeah it was not that unnerving because, yeah, it was fine.
And going to see the GP on your own, can you remember how you felt or, you know, were you comfortable that you didn’t really think about it?
Yeah, I think I was comfortable because I’d seen her for so long before that, with someone else I guess, it’s just a transition and just gone by myself.
The consultation is private regardless of a person’s age.
- Lucy is at college and lives at home with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
So when you were about 13 or 14, is that when you went to the doctor’s first? And did the doctor suggest other services then?
They told me I needed to tell my dad what was going on. Because originally the appointment was for something else. I was like, oh no, I just want to talk about something else. And then, so they said I needed to do that, and then they’d put a referral into CAMHS [Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services]. Or they said that they were going to and they’d write me a letter about it. And they gave me the CAMHS website to look at. And another one, but I can’t remember what it was. But I never looked them up cos it was just big words and I didn’t understand.
So that was when you were about 14?
I think so. I think, no, I was probably 13, yeah.
Did you go by yourself to that appointment or . . ?
My dad went with me, but he wasn’t in the room. Because that day at school had been like a really, really bad day and my teachers were like, “Oh you need to tell your dad. Or you need to tell the doctors or something.” And I was like, “Right, well, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment today. I’ll tell her tomorrow.” And then, yeah....
So you, but you, did you ask your dad to wait outside? Or did he say, “Do you want me to come in with you or shall I wait outside”?
I think --
How did that happen?
-- I’d sort of gotten to that age where I was a bit like I wanted to feel a bit more grown up. And as well, because he didn’t know about what had been going on at school, and sort of stuff I was gonna tell the doctors and that school knew. I was sort of like, “Well, I’ll wait till I can tell him, so he’s not just in there like going, ‘What?’”