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As a specialty, general practice can be proud that it has led the way in helping doctors to communicate well with patients. Some of the seminal works in the field have come from within our discipline.1–3 It is therefore perhaps surprising that recent evidence shows we are not as good as we might like to be in one area that we all encounter on a regular basis — consulting with children.
The GMC has reminded us how important it is to communicate well with children.4 Their guidance on the matter came not ex vacua; rather it was developed from the mouths of the children themselves following an extensive consultation process. The GMC heard, and have reminded us, that children want us to listen to them and that they want us to involve them. Furthermore, doing so can make a difference. I was reminded of this the other day when a mother and young child came to see me with a simple wart. ‘I could burn it off but it would be painful and might come back. It might be better to use some stuff from the chemist,’ I told them confidently. ‘That's fine,’ said Mum, ‘we'll head down and pick some up’. ‘Is that OK with you?’ I asked the girl perfunctorily. ‘Actually, please could you try and burn it off? It's just that I get bullied about it at school and the quicker I can get rid of it the better.’
We can all be superficial in our dealings with children, sometimes to the point of ignoring them, but the good news is that there are things that we can do to get better outcomes, for example, giving the child the opportunity to speak rather than automatically asking the adult. Perhaps this month's Top Tips can help us to have more days when we get it right and continue our specialty's tradition of relating to our patients well, whoever they are, and however old.