A DOCTORS’ practice was criticised by a health watchdog for refusing to treat unaccompanied youngsters aged under 16.

During a scheduled visit to the Felmores Surgery, in Felmores End, Pitsea, last month inspectors from the Care Quality Commission discovered doctors would only see such patients if they were with a parent or guardian.

Concerns have now been raised about their ability to support young people with emotional, safety or sexual health issues.

Department of Health guidelines state children and young people under 16 can consent to treatment as long as they have “sufficient understanding and maturity to enable them to fully understand fully what is proposed.’’ The surgery has now been warned action is needed to improve its involvement of service- users.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: “Staff we spoke with were not all aware of the guidelines.

“The practice was not accessible for young people under 16, which is particularly important for those with emotional, safety and sexual health issues who may want to be seen without a parent.

This told us that the provider did not have systems in place for acting in accordance with the wishes or best interest of people under 16.’’ The practice has now been ordered to send a report to the health watchdog setting out what steps it will take tomeet the standard.

Doctor Jojo Mampilly, who is in charge of the surgery, was on holiday at the time of the inspection.

He said a sign was put up in the reception area – warning patients under 16 they needed to be accompanied by a parent – without his knowledge. Dr Mampilly said: “I am well aware of the guidelines, but other staff were not at the time of the inspection, that was the problem. The inspection came at a bad time as, unfortunately, I wasn’t there.

“We don’t turn anyone under 16 away, as long as they are able to give their consent. We have contacted our patients and the commission to clarify our policy.

“As far as we are concerned, when inspectors return they will not find any need to take action.

We were praised in all other categories.’’ The practice met every other standard – consent to care and treatment, care of welfare of people who use the service, records, and safeguarding people who use services from abuse.