Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people

Young people’s views on improving access to GP services and other support

People gave us their ideas on what could help improve healthcare for young people, including:

•    clinics for young people
•    mental health clinics for young people
•    clinics for all age groups
•    telephone helplines
•    online health services and live chat
•    support from other young people

Clinics for young people

Simon felt that specific clinic times for young people would be helpful. They would also give them the opportunity to meet other people dealing with similar issues and ‘share how they do things differently’. He felt that young people in a GP surgery for all age groups rarely talk to one another but in a clinic for young people ‘they’re more inclined to talk’.
Ambeya also liked the idea of these clinics because everyone would be equal and not ‘put on a scale of who’s more important, who’s less important....everyone at that clinic would be equally seen or equally judged’. She thought that having these clinics after school would mean that young people wouldn’t have to miss lessons. She also liked the idea of young people being given work opportunities to help out at GP surgeries, and volunteer drop-in sessions for advice on mental health.
Auberon felt that drop-in clinics at specific times during the week for all health problems, physical and mental, would mean that young people wouldn’t need to make an appointment and could go there on their own, without their parents. Aphra liked the idea of a drop-in clinic too. There were two GP surgeries in her village and she thought that one could be for older people and the other for young people. In a village ‘people know each other’, and she felt that this could be hard for teenagers who went to the doctor’s on their own.

Hannah and Winston felt that a young people’s clinic would be helpful for teenagers who are concerned about sexual health and contraception.

Mental health clinics for young people

Nikki felt that mental health clinics specifically for young people would be ‘a really good idea’ as she believed that there needs to be a much greater focus on mental health. In a clinic focussing only on mental health problems and concerns, people ‘won’t be compared to those with physical health problems’.
Sophie felt that it would have been useful when she was going through problems to have had someone at the GP surgery ‘on hand to drop-in on’ who knew a lot about mental health. For her, a drop-in clinic on Saturdays would be convenient as it means that students could easily attend. She feels that young people’s main concerns are mental health, sexual health, and relationships, and that more information about these in schools would be helpful.

Lucy liked the idea of walk-in centres for mental health, maybe with counsellors available, as long as there wasn’t a three or four hour wait to see someone. She also felt that it would be good to have a young people’s support group for mental health at the GP surgery, one for people under 18 and another for young people over 18.
Auberon liked the idea of having clinics specifically for young people – one for sexual health and another for mental health. He also thought that a mental health support group at GP surgeries would be helpful, perhaps every fortnight. The group could be run by young people and a mental health professional.
Clinics for all age groups

Not everyone liked the idea of clinics specifically for young people, especially if they rarely went to the doctors’. Louis was unsure whether he’d like a young people’s clinic in GP surgeries because he ‘might see other people I knew there which, you know, makes me feel a bit awkward if I saw them’. But he felt that they could be useful if the clinics were run at school so that no one would have to miss lessons because of a doctor’s appointment. Peter felt that clinics just for young people were unnecessary because ‘you can feel that you’re being singled out....and it just alienates you from others’.
Gentian felt that a young people’s clinic run at a specific time might not be convenient for everyone. He believed that young people should be able to go to the surgery ‘whenever they’re available, not just when the GP says they can come’. Tagbo felt that, although having young people’s clinics might encourage more people to see the GP, teenagers ‘want to be like adults’ and might prefer to see the doctor when it fits in with their own schedule and without parents. Sarah also disliked the idea of young people’s clinics as they’d ‘partition off young people...you’re kind of diminishing them as a person’.
Telephone helplines

Paula thought it would be helpful to have a telephone service specifically for young people where they could phone in with their queries and concerns. Auberon would also have liked a telephone helpline for young people, as long as they could get through direct to a GP and not to an automated service giving information, while Lucy felt that an NHS non-emergency number specifically for mental health would be useful for people of all age groups. Nikki thought a young people’s helpline would be helpful if it was promoted enough and people knew it was available. She’d sometimes used the Samaritans helpline and thought it was important for young people to know what support was available. She felt that a helpline run by and for young people ‘would be a really good idea’ or a texting service where young people could ‘interact and support each other’.
Sophie had phoned the Samaritans too and liked that ‘there’s someone always there at the end of the phone’. Siobhan preferred texting to talking to someone from the Samaritans and would have liked them to have an email service. She also liked the idea of a young people’s helpline at the GP surgery and felt that someone working specifically with young people would be less likely to use medical jargon. The Samaritans do offer an email service, and details about it can be found on their website.
Susan said that it can take a long time for people to accept that they need help with a mental health issue. If young people could phone and talk to a professional with experience of working with young people and mental health problems, that would be helpful.
For Gentian the main advantage of a helpline would be to get health questions answered without needing to see the GP. He felt that phoning a GP was better than emailing because emails might not get answered, and that hearing a voice is better than ‘just reading’. If there was such a helpline, Aaron felt it should be answered by people ‘trained in dealing with young people rather than general’.

Online health services and live chat

Tagbo liked the idea of a helpline for young people, and felt that such a service online might be used more often by teenagers, especially if they could ask health questions anonymously. He felt that young people might ask about sex, drugs, and relationships, and other topics that were hard to talk to parents about. Rowan and Emma felt that a live chat helpline would be good:
Support from other young people

Some people, like Rowan, preferred not to see others of their own age at the doctor’s surgery, but thought that talking to other young people could be a good idea instead of going to the GP surgery with minor worries. But Hazzan felt that, ‘If people are talking amongst themselves, then I don’t think they'd get anywhere….I think they'd need a GP to step in at certain points to answer questions that young people may have.’
Auberon liked the idea of an online forum where young people could discuss their health problems or concerns with each other, and Susan felt that support from other young people for mental health would be helpful. She felt that ‘there’s still so much stigma’ around mental health but people are more likely to listen to those who’ve been through it because ‘it’s good to see it’s not just you’.

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