Intended for healthcare professionals


Involving children is important

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:451
  1. B J Hearn, director, policy and innovation (bhearn{at}
  1. National Children's Bureau, London EC1V 7QE

    EDITOR–Your otherwise commendable issue on patients' involvement of 14 June omitted an important part of the debate: the health care of children and young people. Typically when we say patient we think adult. The result is the unintentional exclusion of a high proportion of patients: those under 18.

    As Alexander asserts,1 the NHS patient is in a weak position–and if this is true for adults, it is doubly so for children. Parents and carers may be key mediators during the early years, but as children grow in competence they will want to ask their own questions and have them answered in ways they can understand. As they reach the teenage years they may well wish to be in complete control of communication about their health.

    Like adults, children and young people want to be partners in their own health care, especially those children with conditions that will require a lifelong engagement with health professionals. We have to take responsibility for providing a service that can fulfil that aim. Listening to children is a requirement for all government departments, monitored by the children and young people's unit. Patients' involvement in the NHS is no exception. By giving healthcare professionals both the skills and the will to engage proactively with children we can help deliver a relevant, well loved, and well used public service–a mission that must surely be in all our interests.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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