Youth-led training can help GPs better respond to young people’s needs

3 May 2013

Last week I had the privilege of attending an event organised by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) Child and Adolescent Health Group, which included an oversubscribed seminar by Right Here Brighton and Hove Young Volunteers around ‘Making your surgery more youth-friendly’.

It was heart-warming to see that more than 75 GPs had travelled to London to learn about and discuss adolescent health, and presentations by Chair Jane Roberts and other GPs around the specific needs of this age group were very informative.

Although the more specific training seminars that were taking place after the plenary session all sounded extremely interesting, ranging from ‘internet proficiency, literacy and safety’ with young patients to having ‘difficult conversations’ with teenagers, I was thrilled to be able to attend the Right Here seminar ‘Making your surgery more youth-friendly’ as the ‘official Right Here photographer’.

Designed and facilitated by three young Right Here Volunteers, the seminar turned out to be a very interactive session based on the Volunteers’ research with 172 young people, and focused on the Do’s and Don’ts of GP surgeries and consultations. Starting with a hilarious video of the ‘worst case scenario’ surgery, where the receptionist was incredibly rude and dismissive while the GP was desperately indifferent to the young protagonist’s sleeping problems. ‘We were relieved to see the audience laugh’ Jo and Rob, two of the Volunteers, said to me afterwards,‘ as we were worried GPs wouldn’t be pleased to see such an exaggerated picture of surgeries’. Emily, another Volunteer, was quick to make the point to the audience: ‘We’re not here to tell you how to do your job, but to tell you how young people would like to see surgeries and consultations with GPs to feel more comfortable opening up’.

The session continued with a very interesting ‘translation exercise’, where GPs were asked to translate phrases like ‘Are you telling me you’ve experienced psychosis?’ and ‘I’m writing you a referral to CAMHS’ into youth-friendly equivalents. Issues around young people using slang that GPs don’t understand were also discussed and young Volunteers’ advice to GPs was not to hesitate to ask patients if they don’t understand something, and to explain acronyms and jargon through a dialogue with their patient (which should apply to other age groups as someone in the audience rightly pointed out). GPs were also shown the very enlightening ‘How Can I?’ video produced by Right Here Brighton and Hove Volunteers to help young people better know their rights and what to expect when visiting their GP (including what confidentiality means after their research showed young people thought ‘confidential’ meant GP could still inform their parents/teachers), encouraging the audience to give the link to their young patients.

Before leaving the event GPs were handed out a bright ‘Good Practice Mug’, again designed by Right Here Brighton and Hove Volunteers, and covered in tips for a youth-friendly surgery, an excellent tea-break reminder; I hope I spot one of those my GP’s desk soon!