Age limits – health and medical treatment

GPs (General Practitioners)

If you are 16 or over, you can choose to register with a GP of your choice. If you are under 16, your parent or guardian will have to register for you.

GPs are doctors who look after the health of people in their local communityRegistering with a GP is the normal starting point to all health services offered by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. You will find more information about registering with a GP in England here, in Wales here, in Scotland here and in Northern Ireland here.

If you are 16 or over, you have the right to confidential advice and treatment (in other words, all your details will be kept safe and private). If you are under 16 in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you have the right to a confidential consultation with a doctor provided you make it clear that you do not want your parents to be told; but doctors can refuse to discuss the matter if they are unwilling to accept your request for confidentiality. In Scotland, you have the same right to confidential advice and treatment whether you are under 16 or 16 and over.

Consent to medical treatment

The general principle is that a person should give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment – this is normally called “consent”.

If you are 16 or over, you are entitled to consent to medical treatment for yourself, and your parents cannot overrule this.

If you are under 16 you can consent to your own medical treatment if you are considered to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to understand fully what is involved in your treatment – otherwise your parents or person with parental responsibility can consent for you.

If you refuse medical treatment when you are under 18, and this may lead to your death or to severe permanent injury, this refusal can be overruled by the courts.

Contraception

Even though the age of consent is 16, health professionals in the United Kingdom can give contraceptive advice and treatment to young people under 16, if in the professionals’ clinical judgement it is in the young person’s best medical interests and they are able to give what is considered to be informed consent – in other words, if they understand what is going on. See here for more information on contraception.

Blood and organ donation

Under NHS rules, you can donate blood if you are 17 or over and in generally good health; though they will do special checks on women under 20 to make sure they have enough blood volumeYou can find out more about blood donation here.

You can register yourself on the NHS Organ Donor Register at any age, but parents’ consent is required in certain circumstances. Find out more about organ donations here.

You might also be interested in our pages on:

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GP or A & E?
Love
Contraception