0–18 years: guidance for all doctors

This piece of guidance will help you make decisions that are ethical, lawful and for the good of children and young people from birth to their 18th birthday.

Acting in the best interests of the child or young person should be the guiding principle in your decision making. But identifying their best interests can be challenging. This guidance sets out ways to explore what’s important to the young person and how to involve their family and others close to them in sensitive and complex decisions. It also gives advice on approaches to communicating effectively across the team and with the child and their family or carers to make sure you gather relevant information.

This guidance will help you decide what to do if parents want to access their child’s medical records or where there’s a disagreement about treatment options. And it gives details of when you can provide contraceptive, abortion and STI advice and treatment, without parental knowledge or consent, to young people under 16.

There’s also a section dedicated to helping you assess a young person’s capacity to consent, and what to do if a young person refuses treatment. The section on confidentiality stresses how important it is that children and young people are able to access care in confidence. But it also recognises there may be times when you have to share information, particularly if the welfare of a child or young person is at risk.

This guidance was updated on 8 April 2018. We amended paragraph 56 and removed paragraphs 57–63 which refer to child protection, as this is covered in our guidance Protecting children and young people: the responsibilities of all doctors. The remaining paragraphs have been re-numbered.

This guidance was updated on 25 May 2018 to reflect the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018.

Download the guidance