Special hospital wards for teenagers

Special Hospital Wards for Children

More teenagers than children are admitted to hospital, but how many hospitals do you know that offer dedicated teenager wards?

40 years ago experts said teenagers should be treated in separate wards, but only a handful of hospitals in England provide special accommodation for teenage patients and the situation is much worse in Scotland. Over 10 years ago, Prof Viner, a consultant at University College London, published research setting out a strong case for dedicated teenage wards in the U.K., resulting in a national press call.

But next to nothing has happened. It’s a national scandal with more and more teenage patients forced into adult wards that are increasingly occupied by the 65+ groups. This is not conducive to recovery – and it may even impede it.

Recently, I witnessed my 18-year old son recover from an operation in an adult urology department in a Scottish hospital. Waking up from the trauma, he was confronted with a ward of elderly male patients in various states of critical illness. For a young person who had never experienced an environment like this, the situation was intolerable and met with a plea to ‘get me out of here’. I observed an immediate depressive cloud descend over my normally optimistic son. Fortunately a quick escape ensued but what of those young adults with chronic diseases requiring long-term care who have nowhere else to recuperate? How is such an environment affecting their recovery?

Special Hospital Wards for Children
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, San Antonio

The UK needs to look worldwide for precedents; Australia, for example, where adolescent wards can be found in all the major hospitals. The Teenage Cancer Trust is steering a revolution in UK teenage hospital care – and has flagged the benefits of good design to recovery. But this model needs to be rolled out mainstream – starting with just 12-16 beds set aside in a special setting within all hospitals.

My own research has shown how the design of hospital settings influences patient wellbeing. Let’s take those lessons and apply them to teenage wards – the physical and social setting matters to these young people.

If you are a teenager or a parent with your own story please get in touch at jenny.roe@york.ac.uk