New NICE guidance advises empowering children and young people to take an active role in their healthcare

Young child with female doctor listening to heart_breathing

NICE has issued NICE Guideline (NG) 204, Babies, children and young people’s experience of healthcare. Developed in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and incorporating the views of parents and carers, NG204 aims to help healthcare professionals give every baby, child, and young person the best possible experience of healthcare.

The guidance explains what a good patient experience consists of for babies, children, and young people—which includes feeling supported and listened to by staff providing care, being treated as an individual, and having their needs put first. NICE states that: ‘Good healthcare can make a child or young person feel confident, empowered and able to make decisions about their own health. It can improve how they feel about their diagnosis and treatment and lead to better results for their health’.

Accordingly, NG204 provides recommendations on the following:

  • overarching principles of care
  • communication and information
  • planning healthcare
  • consent, privacy, and confidentiality
  • advocacy and support
  • improving healthcare experience, including healthcare environments
  • accessibility, continuity, and coordination.

In addition, NG204 makes recommendations on how optimal care can be delivered to babies, children, and young people. Healthcare professionals are advised to ensure that:

  • they communicate well with each child or young person, and listen to and respect them
  • they know how to involve parents or carers in discussions and decisions about care, and how that may need to change as a child gets older
  • decisions about a baby, child, or young person’s healthcare are made in the right way, taking into account consent, assent, and competence
  • children and young people always get the support they need, including the option for some to have someone to represent their wishes and speak on their behalf (an advocate)
  • children and young people are supported to keep up their usual activities while receiving healthcare as much as possible, such as school, social media, or seeing friends.

The guideline also includes a useful visual summary explaining how the recommendations should be put into practice.

The new guideline is intended for use by healthcare professionals, commissioners, and providers of NHS or local authority healthcare services, nonclinical staff who come into contact with patients (for example, receptionists, clerical staff, and domestic staff), and people aged 17 and under using healthcare services, their families and carers, and members of the public. Although NG204 is intended for use in all healthcare settings, NICE acknowledges that ‘for some babies, children and young people, interaction with healthcare services will be less frequent (for example, visits to a dentist or GP), while for others interactions will be frequent or ongoing (for example, inpatient stays), so a personalised approach to implementation is needed’.