Health service needs to focus on teens, study shows

Article date: 23 January 2002

Teenagers’ needs are not being met by Britain’shospital system, a new report reveals today.

Despite on going pressure to improve health services for youngpeople, the study of more than 400 youngsters aged 13-18 years andNHS nurses shows that only one in ten teenagers has been nursed ina dedicated adolescent hospital ward.

And nurses are struggling to care for their teenage patients– more than half admitted to difficulties in meeting theirneeds.

The report, published by Norwich Union Healthcare, reinforcesthe urgent need for public and private hospitals to developspecific facilities for teenage patients and for nurses to beadequately trained in adolescent care.

The study reveals that the average nurse spends approximately 20per cent of his or her time managing teenage patients. Yet only onein five nurses has had any specific training in nursing adolescentpatients. And an overwhelming 85 per cent support the developmentof adolescent hospital wards and 65 per cent support theintroduction of a patients’ charter specifically for teenagepatients.

Dr Russell Viner, consultant in adolescent medicine atUniversity College London Hospitals and Gt Ormond Street Hospital,said: “This study shows that the time is ripe for the healthservice to change the way young people are cared for inhospital.

“As a nation we are still lagging behind other countrieson the provision of teenage healthcare, and too often teenagers arenursed in children’s or adult wards even though their needsare very different. We hope this report will add to the pressure toimprove health services for young people in both the private andpublic healthcare systems.”

Norwich Union Healthcare’s study shows:

  • 44 per cent of adolescent patients are nursed on achildren’s ward, while a third are nursed on an adult orgeneral ward
  • Nine out of ten nurses find it difficult to know which ward toadmit teenage patients to
  • More than one-third of adolescent patients admitted to feelinglonely or isolated during their hospital stay and 25 per cent saidthey felt embarrassed at times
  • Nine in ten teenagers support the introduction of specificadolescent units in hospitals, compared to 85 per cent ofnurses
  • 70 per cent of teenagers support the development of a separatecharter for adolescent patients. Two thirds of nurses support itsdevelopment
  • A quarter of nurses say communication problems make meetingadolescent patient’s needs difficult, and 14 per cent sayit’s due to a lack of training.

Norwich Union Healthcare’s research report, which involvedconsultation with Dr Viner and healthcare experts at the MiddlesexHospital in London, recommends that more hospitals should beworking towards meeting the needs of teenage patients –whether it be the establishment of a specific unit or amultidisciplinary team with an expertise in adolescenthealthcare.

It also calls for increased medical training to enableprofessionals to interact with and understand the complex needs ofthis age group and the development of an Adolescent Patient’sCharter.

David Rogers, managing director for Norwich Union Healthcare,said: “Evidence suggests that teenagers who stay in anadolescent ward may recuperate more quickly than those who stay ina children’s or adult ward. As a result, we encouragehealthcare professionals to make hospital and community healthservices for adolescents a priority.”


Notes to editors

  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned research amongst 212nurses and 200 teenagers in September 2001
  • Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products to around 675,000customers. It is one of the largest providers of income protectionand private medical insurance in the UK.
  • Member of the General Insurance Standards Council
  • Norwich Union’s news releases are available on thisinternet site
  • A selection of images is available from the CGNU Newscast siteat
  • An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast.Call the press office on 08703 66 68 68

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