Clinicians urged to help youngsters with chronic illness

Healthcare professionals need to get to grips with chronic illnesses in young people, says a leading adolescent health expert.

Dr Ann McPherson, Oxford GP and chairwoman of the RCGP adolescent task force, said the DoH push for more secondary care to be the responsibility of primary care means GPs need to become more attuned to the needs of young people with conditions such as epilepsy or cancer.

‘One of the problems is that often these patients don’t see GPs because they’ve been looked after by the hospital,’ she said.

‘They often see hospitals as their primary carers, not the GP.’

But GPs need to keep in contact with these patients, to help them with issues such as contraception, and also to ease the transition from paediatric to adult services, added Dr McPherson.

‘Given what’s happening in primary care, we need to readdress the balance.’

GPs should visit the website YouthHealthTalk to learn more about young people with chronic or long-term medical conditions, said Dr McPherson.

She has developed the site along with colleagues at the University of Oxford to provide an insight into symptoms, diagnosis, doctor-patient relations, as well as the day-to-day impact of living with a condition such as cystic fibrosis, congenital heart problems or HIV in your teens or early twenties.

As well as boosting the knowledge-base of GPs and those in training, young patients should be directed to the site to learn more about living with their condition, she added.

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