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Confidentiality & Consent

Can I go to the doctors by myself or with a friend?

Yes. Anyone has the right to visit their GP for help and you can go by yourself or with a friend.

Does it matter how old I am? One of my friends says if you’re under 16 they’ll tell your parents.

Your friend is wrong. The law says that anyone, no matter how old they are, can see their doctor in confidence.

What does "in confidence" mean?

Good question! It means that the doctor won’t tell anyone that you’ve been to see him or her without your permission. It gets more complicated if you want to talk to the doctor about something that he or she thinks may be harming you or someone else, like you’re being hurt by someone or someone is making you do something you don’t want to do. If that happens the doctor will talk to you and try to persuade you to get help, but if you don’t agree the doctor can get help without your permission if he or she thinks it’s best for you.

So, how do I know if I can talk to my doctor confidentially? I feel more worried than ever!

Don’t worry. In reality what we’re talking about is whether you are being abused or not. If you are not being abused by anyone then your doctor shouldn’t tell anyone about your visit. If they do they are breaking their professional code of conduct.

What if I am being abused by someone?

You have to decide if you want the abuse to stop. If you do you can talk to your doctor and he or she will arrange for someone to help you. If you are not sure then you need to talk to someone without them knowing who you are. You can ring your doctor and ask to speak to someone without giving your name or you can click here to get some addresses and phone numbers of people who can help you.

So, say for example, I’m 14 and want to go on the "pill" I can see my doctor and my parent’s won’t be told?

Nearly all doctors in Cornwall would see you without telling your parents. If you are not confident about this ring them up and ask them what their policy is or check and see if they have been Savvy Approved which guarantees you will be given accurate information.

Does that mean they will definitely give me the "pill"?

The doctor will talk to you and discuss with you the best way to help. He or she will then have to decide whether you are competent to give consent.

What does that mean?

It means that you understand the risks and benefits of the treatment or advice you are asking for and that it is in your best interests to have the treatment. Most doctors would say that if you have been sensible enough to come and ask them for help then you are competent to give consent.

What happens if the doctor decides I’m not competent to give consent?

Then they don’t have to give you the treatment. This is very rare and even if that happens they can’t tell anyone else, including your parents, that you have been to see them. Remember, if you want advice about contraception you can go and see any GP not just your own and there are other clinics you can go to. You can search a list of these and other services by clicking here.

I’m still not sure I feel safe about going to see the doctor. It all seems very complicated.

In real life it’s not that complicated. If you need to see the doctor the chances are that you will be able to see them and talk to them about anything that may be bothering you without your parents or anyone else knowing. If you are not sure whether your doctor will see you the best way of finding out is to ask by ringing up or going to your health centre and speaking to a receptionist. If you do have any problems with getting to see your doctor we would like to hear from you.

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