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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 00:38 GMT
Teenage health needs 'neglected'
Teenagers miss out on dedicated NHS care
Teenagers miss out on dedicated NHS care
Teenagers do not receive the care they need in Britain's hospitals, according to a report published on Wednesday.

The study, carried out by Norwich Union Healthcare, surveyed 200 teenagers aged 13 to 18 in NHS and private sector hospitals and 200 health service nurses.

It found just one in 10 adolescents had been cared for in a hospital ward specifically dedicated to teenagers' needs.

Just under half are nursed on a children's ward, and another third are nursed on an adult or general ward, with the rest being cared for in other settings.

As a nation we are still lagging behind other countries on the provision of teenage healthcare

Dr Russell Viner, University College London Hospitals
The report calls for more services targeted at teenagers' needs, such as a designated units or experts in adolescent healthcare.

It adds nurses must be properly trained in adolescent care.

Nursing concerns

The report found a nurse spends 20% of his or her time dealing with teenage patients, but just one in five had received specialist training.

Half the nurses questioned said they had found it difficult to meet the needs of the adolescents in their care.

Nine out of 10 have problems deciding which ward to admit teenage patients to.

And a quarter of nurses say communication problems mean it is difficult to care for teenagers.

Over a third of teenagers said they had felt lonely or isolated in hospital. A quarter felt embarrassed at times during their stay.

Ninety per cent of teenagers and 85% of the nurses questioned said there should be specific adolescent units in hospitals.

Seventy per cent of teenagers and 65% of nurse want a Adolescent Patient's Charter.

Caught in the middle

Dr Russell Viner, consultant in adolescent medicine at University College London Hospitals and Gt. Ormond Street Hospital, said: "As a nation we are still lagging behind other countries on the provision of teenage healthcare, and too often teenagers are nursed in children's or adult wards even though their needs are very different.

"We hope this report will add to the pressure to improve health services for young people in both the private and public healthcare systems."

David Rogers, managing director for Norwich Union Healthcare, said: "Evidence suggests that teenagers who stay in an adolescent ward may recuperate more quickly than those who stay in a children's or adult ward.

"As a result, we encourage healthcare professionals to make hospital and community health services for adolescents a priority."

The Department of Health said where numbers of teenagers treated and space allowed, there should be a dedicated ward, or part of a ward for teenagers.

A spokesman added that it was an area that would be looked at in the forthcoming National Service Framework for Children and Young People.

A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: "This report shows many of the issues that we have been highlighting for some time.

"Many trusts have been working hard to improve care for teenagers by putting in extra investment - but it's not always about money - it is also about finding out what teenagers need by asking them directly and using their answers to improve services.

Dr Ann McPherson, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners' adolescent health committee, said teenagers often got caught in the middle between children's and adults' care.

She said: "I would agree that there are insufficient hospital units that are provided for teenagers, and staff are not trained to look after them."

Dr McPherson has been involved in training GPs to look after teenagers better.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Health
How teenagers deal with cancer
30 Aug 01 | Health
Second-time teen mothers at risk
26 Jul 01 | Health
Teens risking future health
31 May 00 | Health
Teenage smoking rates fall again
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