Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review ABC of adolescence

Adolescents in primary care

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 24 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:465
  1. Ann McPherson


    The specific health needs of young people are often neglected by primary care as it is believed that adolescents are on the whole a healthy group who rarely present to their general practitioner (GP). “Out of sight” has been “out of mind,” especially given the ever increasing pressures on primary care from other client groups.

    The new GP contract in England and Wales has done nothing to mitigate this. Change is needed, however, as teenagers (a) have many health concerns, though they do not always tell their GP about them, and (b) do visit their GPs, on average two to three times a year (with about 70% of all teenagers visiting their GP in any one year). These visits provide opportunities to deal with their health concerns.

    Surveys have shown that adolescents are usually happy to discuss health issues with their GP, but 40% say that they find it difficult to see their GP. Over 60% said that they would not know how to register with a GP when they left home, and 71% did not know how to register as a temporary resident. Young people identify confidentiality and access as the most important aspects of primary care for them.

    Reasons that teenagers visit their general practitioner. Data from Churchill et al. Br J Gen Pract 2000;50: 953-7

    A survey of all general practices in Oxfordshire showed that only about 30% of practices had tackled the issue of confidentiality and “user friendly” services for adolescents. These are the issues perceived by teenagers as the greatest barriers to accessing primary care.

    Aspects of primary care identified as most important to young people. Data from Donovan C et al.Br J Gen Pract 1997;47: 715-8

    View this table:

    Barriers to primary care perceived by adolescents

    Communication with young people

    Effective communication is an essential part of any clinical interaction. …

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