Did you know that children and young people make up nearly 25% of the population, and thus a significant proportion of the NHS’s patients? Or that we are some of the largest users of primary care, such as GP practices and clinics; as well as secondary care, which includes A&E’s, hospitals and so forth…
It’s true! We are a crucial piece in the big picture of how the NHS operates, who it provides a service for and the quality of that service as well. The voices of young people are vital in shaping how the NHS is structured and exactly how it delivers the services that we all make use of and appreciate.
The NHS Youth Forum, established in 2014, consists of around 25 young people from across England, who work together to improve quality of care for children and youth within the NHS. They also ensure young people’s voices are heard by NHS staff, local hospitals and trusts, GP clinics, policymakers and Government bodies. We are committed to ensuring young people’s experience of healthcare and their assessment of whether the healthcare that is currently available today, is meeting the needs of our generation.
In addition to the core NHS Youth Forum group, whose members change each year, the forum’s Alumni members have come together this year to form a group of NHS Youth Social Action Advisors (NYSAA’s). Their main priority is to inspire more young people to get involved in volunteering and other forms of social action within healthcare; and to contact NHS organisations and trusts around the country to support in putting programs in place that offer young people these opportunities to get involved.
Another of their priorities is to ensure they link the NHS Youth Forum base with the #iWill movement, as some of the NYSAA’s are also #iWill Ambassadors. This in turn, will maximise the incredible resource of young people within both organisations, and give us the opportunity to work together on meeting the timed objectives of the #iWill campaign.
Why is this important?
Young people are powerhouses. We are extremely ‘in-the-know’ about the world we live in and have creative and innovative ideas about how our society can, and should, be shaped to better support the people who live within it. Healthcare is a pivotal part of this society, and so it is important that we participate in its management.
It doesn’t take all that much work to be engaged in life and inspire others. Being engaged is also great for our emotional and physical wellbeing, and makes people feel more important and valued.
We can also make a massive impact. For example, in 2014 I set up a youth patient group at my local medical practice and asked friends of mine to come along to meetings and support me to review the weekly young person’s clinic, redesign their flyers and also give feedback on how services could be improved.
A year or so down the line we ran a workshop at a local children’s festival on how much sugar was inside certain drinks. We were then asked to stage the same workshop at another event, and another, and eventually we had worked with hundreds of children.
A highlight of leading the group was carrying out a ‘Canteen Takeover Day’ at my college to promote healthier eating and encourage students to get engaged in their health. The event was an incredible success and everyone participated, even if it was through giving out free food! One of my friends said that she would never have thought she’d be interested in joining a ‘health forum’ or would even take part in what might be deemed ‘extracurricular activities’; but she loved the feeling of giving back to the community and being involved in projects that had a real and evident impact.
No matter what your experience is, whether you’ve used the GP practice once in your life or a hundred times; been to the hospital regularly for a long-term condition or just that one time when you broke your wrist, you have a unique angle on our NHS, which is worth gold. Another key point is that if you’re not interested in ‘healthy eating’ or talking directly to your local practice, there are so many other areas of health you could explore; mental health, supporting people with addictions, exercise, exams stress, staying warm in winter, you name it.
You can find out if your GP Practice has a youth forum or group that you can join by researching online, popping in or calling them. You can even contact the NHS Youth Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can do the research for you! It’s also worth investigating how your school, college or university supports students with their physical and mental health. You can give them some suggestions or get involved in setting up projects which could support your peers.