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Young people - health and personal

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland

Abortion

Consultation

Whatever age you are, you are entitled to a confidential consultation with a doctor. It is good practice for a doctor to offer a confidential consultation and if they do not, you could complain.

If the doctor is not willing to give you a confidential consultation or you are not willing to seek help from your family doctor, you should seek help from another agency, for example a local family planning clinic.

Treatment

If you want medical treatment for an abortion then the doctor does not legally require parental consent, even if you are under 16. However, the doctor will usually want you to discuss the matter with your parent(s) and will try to encourage you to do so. In some circumstances, treatment could be carried out without parental consent if the doctor considered that the treatment was necessary for your welfare and that you had sufficient maturity and understanding to provide consent yourself.

Alcohol

It is an offence to give a child under 5 alcohol, even in their own home. A child of 5 or over however, can be given alcohol provided they don't drink it in a bar or other licensed premises.

It is an offence for a person under 18 to buy alcohol or drink alcohol in a pub. If you are under 18 you can have alcohol confiscated by the police if it is being drunk in a public place. It is not necessarily an offence to drink alcohol in a public place (although some local authorities operate bye-laws which prohibit anyone from drinking alcohol in the street or other public places, regardless of their age) but it is an offence if you are under 18 and you refuse to give the alcohol to a police officer if asked to do so, or give your name and address. If you are over 18 you can have alcohol confiscated in a public place if it is believed that you were giving it to someone under 18.

It is an offence for a licence holder or anyone else to sell alcohol to a person under 18.

If you are 16 or 17 you may be given wine, cider, beer or perry to drink with a meal in a hotel or restaurant, provided the food is served in a part of the premises away from the bar.

Licensed premises must ask for proof of age from a person who looks under 25 years of age to verify that the person is at least 18 years of age. This policy is known as “Challenge 25”. The licence holder can use a higher age, for example, 30.

There are approved schemes for proving your age, see Young people's rights.

When it can be shown that a young person is abusing alcohol, if there are sufficient grounds for concern they can be referred to the Children’s Reporter.

The age limits and conditions under which children are allowed in licensed premises will vary depending on what the licence holder has stated in the licence application. If children are allowed into licensed premises, the licence holder must display a Children and Young Persons Access Notice which provides details about what ages of children are allowed, at what times and in which parts of the premises.

There are rules about you working in a bar or shop which sells alcohol, see Young people and employment.

Blood and organ donation

You have to be aged 17 or over before you can donate blood.

You can decide to carry an organ donation card at any age. This will act as authorisation for your organs to be used for transplantation, research or education after your death. In the case of a child under 12, a person with parental rights and responsibilities for the child, usually a parent or carer, will be asked to authorise the organ donation in order for it to go ahead. For children aged 12 and over, their recorded wishes (in the form of an organ donation card, for example) will take precedence and with effect from 1 September 2006 parents or carers will not be asked for their authorisation.

Body piercing

From 1 April 2006 a business that performs body piercing must have a licence or have applied for one. The local authority is allowed to take 12 months to process an application.

A young person under 16 can only have body piercing performed if they are accompanied by a parent (or person with parental rights). The parent also has to provide written consent to the piercing being done.

Cigarettes

It is illegal to sell cigarettes, tobacco or cigarette papers to anyone aged under 18.

Smoking is banned in all public places and workplaces, whatever your age. It's also illegal to smoke in a private car if there is a passenger who is under 18. 

Contraception

There are no age restrictions on giving contraceptive advice or supplies. A doctor is allowed to prescribe contraception if you are under 16 without the consent or knowledge of your parent(s). However, if a doctor is concerned that you do not have sufficient understanding to receive advice or treatment, she may try to persuade you to talk to your parents.

If you do not want to consult your own family doctor, you are entitled to approach another doctor for confidential advice about contraception.

See Further help.

Disability

If you have a disability you may find it useful to have some support from a specialist organisation. One agency that provides comprehensive information and advice about a lot of problems you might want help with is Contact a Family. It has leaflets and provides a Language Line Service if your first language is not English. You can contact the organisation at:-

Contact a Family Scotland
Craigmillar Social Enterprise & Arts Centre
11/9 Harewood Road
Edinburgh
EH16 4NT

Tel: 0131 659 2930
Helpline: 0808 808 3555 (Freephone Mon-Fri 10am-4.00pm; Mon 5.30pm-7.30pm)
Email: scotland.office@cafamily.org.uk
Website: www.cafamily.org.uk/scotland

Drugs

If you are involved in the production, supply or possession of any illegal drug you are likely to be referred to the Children’s Reporter as being in need of some form of assessment or compulsory protection or supervision.

Anyone wanting information about organisations that help and advise people with drug related problems, should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

e-cigarettes

From 1 April 2017, it is illegal to sell nicotine vapour products to anyone aged under 18. This includes devices such as e-cigarettes, and the substances used in them, that allow the user to inhale vapour that contains nicotine, also called 'vaping'. 

For information on the control of sales of nicotine vapour products, see licences and other types of official permission

Glue sniffing

It is illegal to sell solvents to anyone under 16 but glue sniffing is not against the law. However, it does create serious health risks and as a child or young person if you are caught glue sniffing you will be referred to the Children’s Reporter because of fears for your safety.

Medical treatment

Registering with a GP

If you are under 16 you have no right to choose your own GP and must be registered by a parent or other person with parental responsibilities and rights. If you are aged 16 and over you can choose your own GP.

For information about registering with a GP, see NHS patients’ rights.

Confidentiality

If you are under 16 you are entitled to the same degree of confidentiality as someone over 16. When you consult a GP or other doctor before you have discussed the situation or problem with a parent or other carer you may be encouraged to talk to a parent. It is good practice for a doctor to maintain confidentiality. If they do not, you could complain.

There is a useful NHS factsheet for children and young people under 16 called 'Confidentiality - your rights'. It is available on the NHS inform website at www.nhsinform.scot.

If you are aged 16 or over you can give consent for your own treatment.

If you are under 16, you can give consent for treatment as long as the doctor agrees that you are capable of understanding the nature and consequences of the medical advice you are given. This is often most difficult to assess when it relates to abortion or contraception. In most cases a doctor will try to keep the fact of the consultation confidential.

There is a useful NHS leaflet for children and young people under 16 called 'Consent - your rights'. It is available on the NHS inform website at www.nhsinform.scot.

For more information on consent to medical treatment, see NHS patients’ rights.

NHS charges

If you are under 16, or under 19 if in full time education, you are entitled to free prescriptions, dental treatment (including check ups), eye tests, vouchers for glasses and free wigs and fabric supports.

If you are aged 16 or 17 and are not in full time education you are entitled to free dental treatment (including check ups). You may also qualify for help with other NHS treatment if you are on a low income.

For more information on NHS charges if a person is on a low income, see Help with health costs.

NHS complaints

If you are under 16, you have a right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS treatment using the NHS complaints procedure. There is a useful NHS factsheet for young people called 'Have your say! - your right to be heard'. It is available on the NHS inform website at www.nhsinform.scot.

For more information about making a complaint about the NHS, see NHS complaints.

Sexually transmitted infections

If you think you have a sexually transmitted infection and you want advice or treatment you can go to a family doctor, family planning clinic, pregnancy advisory service or clinic for sexually transmitted infections (see Further help). If you are under 16 it is for the doctor to decide whether or not they are willing to act without consulting a parent. If you are concerned about confidentiality, you should check whether or not the doctor is prepared to treat you in confidence.

HIV/AIDS

If you want advice about HIV/AIDS you should consult an experienced adviser for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Personal records

Whatever your age you have a right to see information kept about you, unless the data controller considers you are incapable of understanding the nature of the request you are making. If you are refused access to your records you can complain to the Information Commissioner.

Your parent does not usually have the right to see information about you that is kept on a computer record. This will only be allowed if the data controller is satisfied that you have authorised the request, or if the request is being made on your behalf and you are considered incapable of understanding the nature of the request. However, there are different rules regarding a parent’s access to school records.

For more information on access to personal records, visit the Information Commissioner Office's website at https://ico.org.uk. For more information on access to school records, see Problems at school.

Sex

The age at which you can consent to sexual activity (including with someone of the same sex as you) is 16.

It is illegal for young people under 16 to have sexual intercourse or oral sex with each other, even where you have both agreed to it.

Anyone who engages in sexual activity with a young person under 16 (even if they agreed to it) is committing a criminal offence.

It is a criminal offence for someone in a position of trust in relation to you, for example a teacher or a care home worker, to engage in sexual activity with you if you are under 18, even if you agreed to it.

Self – harm

Self – harm is where you hurt or injure yourself, for example by:-

  • cutting yourself
  • taking overdoses of tablets or medicines
  • scratching your skin to cause sores and scarring

If you’re self – harming, you can get help to stop. There’s a useful website at www.selfharm.co.uk. It gives you more information about self – harming and the contact details of organisations that can help.

Tattooing

It is an offence to tattoo a child or young person under the age of 18 unless it is done for medical reasons by a qualified medical practitioner. Someone who tattoos anyone under 18 can be prosecuted unless they show they had good cause to believe the person was over 18.

Further help

Young Scot Extra

InfoLine 0808 801 0338 (Mon - Fri 10am - 6pm) confidential and free on landlines and mobiles
Typetalk: 18001 0808 801 0338
Email: infoline@youngscot.org
Website: www.youngscotextra.org

Young Scot offers free and confidential advice online, by e-mail and phone or text “callback” with a time you can be contacted to 07781 484317.

Further information for young people

You can find more information about the rights of children and young people on this website:

For information about the general rights of children and young people, see Young people's rights.
For information about employment, see Young people and employment.
For information about family matters, see Young people and family.
For information about benefits, see Young people and benefits.
For information about the law and young people, see Young people and the law.
For information about concessionary fares, see Concessionary fares for younger people.

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