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Changes in healthcare between 16 to 18

In this section:

Arrow Making Decisions

Arrow For Families and Carers

Arrow Confidentiality

Arrow How this might change things



Making Decisions

As people grow in health services, the responsibilities and control they will have over their health will change. How someone makes decisions is called “capacity”

There is a lot more information on capacity and making decisions here:

Young people can make decisions about their healthcare once they are 16 years old unless there are reasons to suggest otherwise. This does not mean you have to make decisions about care and treatment on your own if you do not want to. Health professionals, family members and anyone else who usually supports you will be able to help as they have always done. This is called Shared Decision Making.



For Families and Carers

Things will change about how young people make decisions from 16 years old. View more information here: How the NHS works for young people parents and carers (imperial.nhs.uk)

If a young person is unable to give their permission because they may not be able to make decisions themselves, health professionals will work with families and advocates to do what is in their “best interests”.

The Mental Capacity Act has been in place since 1 October 2007. It applies to all sorts of situations where health and social care such as contact, living arrangements and financial decisions are made by and for people aged 16 and over. It requires that people are involved as much as possible in decisions about themselves. People should be enabled to make decisions for themselves where they have capacity to do so.

The Act sets out a framework for decision-making where a person does not have the capacity to make their own decision. The Act enables people to plan for their care and treatment if they think they may lack capacity in the future. 

The Act is supported by a Code of Practice: Making decisions: An Easyread guide (councilfordisabledchildren.org.uk)




Once you reach the age of 16 years old, you can agree to examination or treatment just like adults. People providing health care don't have to ask your parents or guardian for consent as well. Your conversations will be private unless you want to include your parents or guardian.

Professionals won't be able to keep things private if you may be causing harm to yourself or other people.



How this might change things

After your sixteenth birthday, clinic or discharge letters should be addressed to you. We will ask if you would like to receive these letters or if they should still be sent to your parents or guardians.

Checking the names, dates, times and information on letters is important. This will help you plan to attend your appointments.

It is good to keep letters in a safe place so you can look at them again if you need to. You might be able to see some letters if you use the NHS app to look at your records.

You might be asked if you want to go into appointments on your own. You can still have support from your family if you want it.

You might have to make, cancel, or rebook your own health appointments unless you give someone else permission to do it. Some young people will still need support to do this as they are unable to do this for themselves.

The age that children’s health services finish and adult health services start varies depending on where people live and what service they receive. In some areas, adult services start at 16 years old and in others they start at 18 years or older. It is a good idea to find out what age this happens where you live. Your Paediatrician, Hospital Consultant, or local General Practice (GP) clinic would be able to help you with this.



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