Working with doctors Working for patients

 

Introduction

Sarah is 15 years old. She has come to the GP surgery alone.

When Sarah asks to see the doctor the receptionist, Mrs Campbell, tells her that it is practice policy that under 16 year-olds must be accompanied by a parent or a guardian. Sarah refuses to leave and insists on seeing a doctor by herself. Mrs Campbell goes in to see Dr Williams to explain the situation.

Mrs Campbell

Mrs Campbell

She turned up by herself about twenty minutes ago. I've told her she can't see a doctor without one of her parents accompanying her, but she just won't leave.

Dr Williams

Dr Williams

Well, it is practice policy...has she told you why she's here?

Mrs Campbell

Mrs Campbell

No, she wouldn't say. She tried to tell me she was 16 but I know she's still only 15 - she's in my daughter's class at school. Should I try asking her to come back with her mum?

Dr Williams

Dr Williams

Well, let's see...you said she seemed upset?

Mrs Campbell

Mrs Campbell

Yes, when I said she couldn't see you by herself, she started to cry. I thought I'd better check with you - it must be something important.

What should the doctor do...? (Select A,B or C)

A

Refuse to see Sarah as she is unaccompanied?

B

Agree to see Sarah alone?

C

Agree to see Sarah, but discuss the option of having the receptionist act as a chaperone before beginning the consultation?

Dr Williams

See what the doctor did

Dr Williams offers to speak to Sarah. Before the consultation begins, she explains that Mrs Campbell, the receptionist, could act as a chaperone. Sarah declines this offer as she is already uncomfortable, and would feel even worse having someone else there, particularly as the receptionist's daughter is in the same class as Sarah at school. Dr Williams agrees to see her alone.

References

You should make it clear that you are available to see children and young people on their own if that is what they want. You should avoid giving the impression (whether directly, through reception staff or in any other way) that they cannot access services without a parent. You should think carefully about the effect the presence of a chaperone3 can have. Their presence can deter young people from being frank and from asking for help.
(0-18 years: guidance for all doctors, paragraph 15)

3. See GMC guidance on maintaining boundaries
Children and young people are individuals with rights that should be respected. This means listening to them and taking into account what they have to say about things that affect them. It also means respecting their decisions and confidentiality.
(0-18 years: guidance for all doctors, paragraph 7)