Receptionist Training: Young Patients and Confidentiality


 It is important that a young patient feels confident to be able to
speak to a Health Care Professional in confidence.


Young patients also have the right to confidentiality! Often it is difficult when a young patient around the age of 15 years comes into the surgery alone. They often don’t want their parents to know that they have been to the Surgery. Often it is of a personal nature. So what happens when the Surgery need to get in touch with the young patient:

Do not phone the patient on their home phone (if possible)

This often leads to questions by parents as to why the surgery is phoning – especially if the patient has not told their parents they have been to the surgery.

Never leave a message on the home answer phone

Again, this will lead to questions by parents.

Use Mobile Telephones wherever possible.

It might be a policy of your Practice not to use mobile telephone numbers. But in the case of a young patient it is advisable to use a mobile number if you have one. This is one safe way of being able to speak direct to the patient – in confidence.

When is a good time to phone?

Ask the Young patient when would be the best time to phone. You don’t want to call when they might be in school or perhaps at home.

If a young patient comes in alone for an appointment

If a young patient wants to make an appointment and wants to be seen on their own please check with you Doctor/Supervisor/Practice Manager that they can be seen on their own. Your Practice should have guidelines on young patients.

At the time of the appointment check if they have a mobile telephone number – this will allow you direct access to the patient if you or a healthcare professional should need to contact them.

If Tests are being carried out

Make an appointment for them to receive the results. Normally we ask
patients to telephone for results – giving a young patient results can often lead to confusion and the correct procedures not taken. An appointment can give the Doctor/Nurse a chance to make sure they understand. It is amazing how many young patient do not understand medical terminology – I have had young patients believe that a “positive” pregnancy test means that they are NOT pregnant. Positive meaning it is good that they are not pregnant.  Do not assume that they understand – always clarify that they understand – explain exactly what the results mean. If as a Receptionist you are giving out a pregnancy result to a young patient and the test is “positive” follow-up by saying:

“Your pregnancy test is positive – that means you are pregnant – would you like me to make an appointment for you to see the Doctor”?    or

“Your pregnancy test is negative – this means that you are not pregnant”

When a Young Patient wants to book an appointment.

There are several things take into consideration when a young patient comes into the surgery to book an appointment:

  •  The young patient may not want their parents knowing that they are going to see the doctor.
  • Young patients are often nervous about seeing the Doctor.
  •  It might have taken a lot of guts for them to come in to book the appointment – maybe it might be of a sensitive nature – something that has taken them time to come in about. So don’t scare them off before they have a chance to see the Doctor/Nurse.
  •  Always try to fit them in when it is convenient with them – if they don’t want their parents knowing it won’t help giving them a tea time appointment – parents might ask questions to where they have been.
  •  Offer an appointment straight from school – or perhaps in their lunch break. Ask the young patient when it would be best for them to come to the surgery.
  • If you feel that the young patient is nervous see if you can fit them in there and then (if you have a surgery going on) – often they will book an appointment and not attend – their nerves get the better of them and they do not come back.
  •  If it is a male young patient try to book them in with a male doctor and a female doctor with a female patient. This will help if the appointment is of a sensitive nature.
  •  If the young patient comes to the desk with a friend – you can always mention that the young patient is welcome to bring their friend in with them to see the Doctor. They sometimes appreciate the support from a friend.

And most important – Young patient have the right to confidentiality – if they are old enough to come on their own then they should have the respect of confidentiality like any other patient. Sometimes Parents get to know that the young patient has been to the see the Doctor and will phone the surgery to ask what they have been in for – you do not have any right to give out any information. So be very careful. If young patients wanted their parents to know they were seeing the Doctor they would have told them.

Make sure you have the correct training in a situation where a parent calls the Surgery and asks why their child has been seen in the surgery. It may happen so be prepared.

2 thoughts on “Receptionist Training: Young Patients and Confidentiality

  1. All very good advice. At our surgery this could be scuppered because so many appointments are book on the day only. And the pm apps usually cannot be booked till the afternoon. Sometimes I override the system but always risk getting into trouble for doing this, as there is an inflexible treat-everyone-the-same policy.

    • Perhaps your surgery should have a policy in place in the event that this might happen – policies are not only there for the patient/customer but also or the support of you the receptionist. You obviously only override the system with care and consideration and for the benefit of the patient – another example of good patient care.

      Thank you for your feedback

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