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Aim:

To improve our understanding of how young people experience ‘primary care’ and to develop resources to improve their experience. 

Why this is important:

As young people become independent, they need private advice about matters such as contraception, or mental health. Those with long-term conditions begin to take responsibility for managing their own condition. If these conditions are not managed well young people may end up in hospital, which is costly & distressing. Diabetes, asthma and epilepsy in this age group led to 21,600 hospital stays in England and Wales in 2009–10.

But starting to use primary care independently and developing a trusting relationship can be difficult. Young people need to know:

  • how to contact services
  • what questions to ask
  • their rights to be seen alone
  • when to take a parent along, or tell them you do not want them there
  • whether the GP or other staff will tell anyone else what’s been discussed
  • how to register with a new GP when they leave home for college or work.

Young people may also value different ways of getting in touch with a GP (e.g. email, text or phone). We know little about how young people feel about primary care and what would make it better for them but the NHS Patient Survey shows that 18–24 year olds feel much less positive about their experience of the NHS than older adults. We also know little about parents’ experiences.

Methods:

Involving young people throughout our study, we plan

  • A YouthHealthTalk.org interview study with young people aged 10–25 about their experiences of primary care, their worries, their information needs, how services could be better.
  • A HealthTalk.org study of what parents think about 'letting go', when they think they ought to be involved, what kind of advice/reassurance they need from GPs.
  • A study of primary care provision, including interviews with GPs, practice nurses, receptionists, family planning advisers, to understand their experience of interacting with young people and find examples of good practice; and observations of how young people are treated in waiting rooms and pharmacies.
  • Then we will create an online guide for young people to learn about using primary care, with interview clips showing young people sharing experiences and tips. Similar resources have been shown to help young people with specific conditions such as asthma. We will test it in schools, youth clubs and care homes, using questionnaires and focus groups with students to check its effect on their understanding and attitudes, and their ideas for improving it. We'll make the resource available free across the country.
  • We'll also use the YouthHealthTalk.org interviews to give GPs suggestions for improving what they do, and work with some practices to test ways of changing their services for young people. Again, we'll make these suggestions available to all GPs.

How this will benefit patients:

The online guide of experiences and tips on YouthHealthTalk.org will help young people to learn from others, supporting them to have better experiences of primary care.