Webpage written by Isabelle age 18 from Leeds

Privacy and confidentiality

Confidentiality is respecting a person's privacy and not sharing your details or information unless you give consent for them to be shared.

My right to confidentiality when speaking to a doctor or nurse

 You have a right to confidentiality when speaking to a doctor or nurse. This is called doctor and nurse patient confidentiality. All doctors and nurses are legally bound by it.

This means that doctors and nurses will keep your information private. They won’t share what you say with your parents or anyone else unless in specific circumstances.

If you are over 16, or if you are under 16 but show that you are mature enough to make an informed decision that is right for you, then you can ask the doctor or nurse not to involve your parent or carer. However, if the doctor or nurse feels that you are in danger in any way or need help to make your decision, they may involve your parent or carer or share your information in order to keep you safe.

When a doctor or nurse feels the need to share your information, they should discuss this with you first to let you know.

 

My right to confidentiality when speaking to a teacher

When you talk to a teacher about a serious incident or something putting your physical or emotional safety at risk, they will record and report what you tell them. The information must be passed on to the designated safeguarding leader at school. They are trained to help you and offer support.

Not all teachers can promise not to share your information as they might not be in the position to support you by themselves. They won’t share the information unnecessarily or with teachers that don’t need to be involved.

It is important to remember that the doctor, nurse or teacher will put your safety first. Any actions taken will be for your best interest.

If you are struggling or in need of help, reach out to a trusted adult, make an appointment with your doctor or nurse, or call up or text a free confidential helpline.

Frequently asked questions 

How can I contact my GP surgery without my parents knowing (by myself)?

Anyone can make an appointment to see a doctor or nurse, no matter how old they are.

You can book an appointment at your GP surgery by calling them up. You will be able to find the number to call by searching the name of your GP surgery. Some GP surgeries allow you to contact your GP for advice by filling in an online form and they will reply back by phone or email.

The receptionist will ask you who the appointment is for and why. This is to make sure that you see the right person at the right time.

If it’s something personal then you don’t have to tell them why. Just say it’s for something personal. You can also ask to see a male or female doctor or nurse if this would make you feel more comfortable.

Who can come with me to a doctor or nurse appointment?

It is important that you feel comfortable at your appointment. You can go to the appointment alone or bring someone with you for support. Most places will allow you to bring your parent, carer, friend or partner to the appointment with you.

You can always check with the receptionist when you book your appointment if it is ok to bring someone with you.

Can my parents see my GP records online?

When you go to an appointment at a GP surgery, online records are usually made. Health records include information about your health and any treatment you have had. If you want these online records to be hidden so that your parents cannot access the information online, then you can ask your GP to do this. They may ask you why. This is because they need to check that you are not at risk of harm. 

When you are under the age of 11 your parents can have access to your online GP records.

Your parents should automatically lose access to your records at some point between ages 11 to 13. Every GP surgery is different. If you are over 13 years old and do not want your parents to have access to your medical records then speak to your GP.

If your parents want to continue to have access to your records after age 13 then they will have to request this from the GP surgery. You will be asked for permission first.

When you are 16, you are usually deemed an adult in the eyes of the NHS. Even if you have previously given permission, your parents will lose access to your medical records.

How can I access my GP record or get results?

If a result causes any immediate medical concern the doctor will usually contact you themselves. The GP surgery will contact you using the phone number on their records. Make sure that the phone number they have is the one that you want them to use. 

If a doctor wants to discuss a test result where there is no serious level of concern, they may ask reception to book you in for a routine telephone call. If you have not heard about a result after 1 to 2 weeks you can call your GP surgery yourself.

If you are over 13 years old then you may be able to get access to your online GP record via the NHS app or your GP surgery website. Speak to your GP surgery about how to do this.

What happens if I tell my doctor or nurse that I self harm?

All NHS staff have a legal duty to keep confidentiality. This means they should try to ask for your consent before passing on information about you, whatever age you are.

In most cases, the doctor or nurse won’t tell anyone else that you are self harming. 

There are some exceptions, for example:

  • you want them to tell someone
  • they are worried that you might hurt yourself more seriously than you meant to
  • you are expressing serious suicidal feelings
  • you are being physically or sexually abused
  • your self harm will lead to permanent damage

If they do need to tell someone else, they should let you know first.

This doesn’t always have to be your parents, it could be another professional such as a mental health worker, psychiatrist or social worker.

Teachers have a legal duty not to keep certain things to themselves. If you tell a teacher, they should refer you to an experienced counsellor or health professional who knows how best to help and support you.

Need help now? Visit our Help I'm in Crisis page

Will my doctor or nurse tell my parents that I smoke or vape?

No, not without your permission. At an appointment your doctor or nurse might ask you if you smoke or vape in order to better assess your health.

Your doctor or nurse will keep the details of what you talk about private. The only times when they cannot honour your privacy is when someone is hurting you or you are going to hurt yourself or someone else.

Will the doctor or nurse tell my parents that I am sexually active?

What you talk about with your doctor or nurse is private and confidential.

The legal age to consent to sex is 16. Any sexual activity with someone under 16 is against the law.

If you are under 16, you are still able to access sexual health services, see a doctor or nurse without getting in trouble. The services are there to support you, not to judge you or report you. This includes getting advice from a doctor, nurse or someone else in a clinic, accessing contraception, and getting tested and treated for STIs. Doctors and nurses will only pass on information if they think you or someone else is in danger or being taken advantage of.

For more information visit our About Sex page.

Will the GP or nurse tell my parent or carer if I want to go on the pill?

What you talk about with your doctor or nurse is private and confidential. Firstly, the GP or nurse will give you the information about the pill and other forms of contraception. This is so you can compare the positives and negatives of each form and make a decision that is best for you.

If you are able to consider the different options and are in a safe position to make that decision then you may be able to get the pill without your parents being told, even if you are under 16.

The legal age to consent to sex is 16. If you are under 16, you are still able to access sexual health services, see a doctor or nurse without getting in trouble. The services are there to support you, not to judge you or report you. This includes getting advice from a doctor, nurse or someone else in a clinic, accessing contraception, and getting tested and treated for STIs. Doctors and nurses will only pass on information if they think you or someone else is in danger or being taken advantage of.

Will anyone be told if I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

What you talk about with your doctor or nurse is private and confidential.

The legal age to consent to sex is 16. If you are under 16, you are still able to access sexual health services, see a doctor or nurse without getting in trouble. The services are there to support you, not to judge you or report you. This includes getting advice from a doctor, nurse or someone else in a clinic, accessing contraception, and getting tested and treated for STIs. Doctors and nurses will only pass on information if they think you or someone else is in danger or being taken advantage of.

All sexually transmitted infections are more harmful if you don't know about them.That's why it's so important to tell anyone who may have been exposed. It can be awkward, but it's one of the most important ways to reduce the spread of STIs.

If possible, tell your sexual partner and any ex partners so they can get tested and treated as well. If you don't want to do this, the clinic can usually do it for you. It's called partner notification and the clinic won't reveal who you are.

It's your choice whether you tell them or not and doctors and nurses will respect your confidentiality. However, in England and Wales there's a risk of being prosecuted for reckless transmission of HIV if you had sex with someone who didn't know you had HIV and you knew you had HIV at that time.

Visit our About Sex page for more information about where to get help. 

What happens if I need help with drink or drugs?

Using drugs or drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can have a major impact on your health. It can cause mental health problems, contribute to short term or long term physical health problems and might also affect social relationships. 

If you are using drugs or drinking a lot of alcohol, you can talk to your doctor or nurse for advice and help to stop.

It is important to remember that anything you disclose to the doctor or nurse is private. They will only pass on the information if they feel you are in danger or at risk of being harmed.

The doctor or nurse might ask some questions about your drug or alcohol use. They will assess the problem and decide on the best course of treatment for you as well as providing information on services for advice and support.

Need support?

 Talk to Frank gives honest information about drugs and alcohol.

 Drink aware has advice about young people and alcohol. They also have advice on how to recognise alcohol poisoning

  Drinkline is a confidential helpline for anyone concerned about drinking. You can call them for free from Monday to Friday from 9am to 11pm on 0300 123 1110.

Will my teacher tell anyone else what is happening?

It will depend what information you have shared. Teachers cannot promise to keep things private if they are worried about you. Your teacher will usually speak to the school safeguarding lead. Other teachers or members of staff won't be told unless they need to be told to keep you safe. 

Tell the teacher you speak to that your privacy is important to you.

Where can I access 24 hour support?

You can call NHS 111 for health advice 24 hours a day. 

If you are struggling with your mental health and need help now visit our 'Help I'm in Crisis' page 

Call West Yorkshire Night OWLS if you are struggling with your emotional well being, in a crisis, or just need to talk. You can call or text Night Owls. They are a confidential service that offer support to young people that you can access from 8pm- 8am. Call free on 0800 1488 244 or text on 07984 392700.

 Call 116 123. Samaritans offers 24 hour support. You can call them at any time, or email if you prefer to write your thoughts down. Your information will be kept confidential except for in specific situations where you are in danger, for example if they need to call you an ambulance.

Further Information

 Dr Ranj answers your questions about seeing a doctor, how to make an appointment and what to expect. Visit childline to read his advice. 

 Visit the Mind website and read their guide for 11 to 18 year olds explaining how and when information about your mental health is kept private.