Future Voices: Should teenagers have a hospital ward of their own?

Future Voices, Hospital for teens. James Paget hospital

Future Voices, Hospital for teens. James Paget hospital - Credit: Archant

I will always remember the day I had to go to A&E. When my mum and I signed in, we were told that we could wait in the children's waiting area, rather than the bustling main waiting room.

For the most part of the three hours' waiting, I sat on a minuscule plastic chair, colouring in Tweetie Pie pictures, whilst trying to ignore the drone of CBeebies in the background. This would have been great if I was three, but being 11, I felt slightly out of place. This made me wonder what staying in hospital must be like for older children. Do teens feel like the forgotten group of patients? Would they benefit from a ward of their own?

I spoke to Emma Dolman, children's matron at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, who informed me about the experiences of the older children when they're admitted into hospital.

During their stay in hospital, they are never stripped of their independence, and Emma told me that 'taking the young people off the ward for walks and to the gym is a good way of promoting independence.'

However, what if the teens would rather stay on an adult ward during their hospital stay?


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Emma told me there are three dedicated beds for young people on Cringleford ward, and that these were suitable for those of 14 years upwards. This gives the older teens a greater amount of independence: something which is of great importance.

Whilst in hospital, children are encouraged as much as possible to keep up with their school work; indeed on the children's ward, they have a teacher who attends for half a day, ensuring the children never fall behind with their work. I was also surprised to be informed 'we've had children sit exams in hospital before'.

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Children's wards may bring to mind bright colours and large murals - especially designed for the younger children – and there are always plenty of activities on offer.

Equally colourful, the Norfolk and Norwich children's ward theme was 'chosen specifically for a large spread of ages. It has a beach theme throughout which is pertinent to Norfolk, but also to all ages, as nearly everyone goes to the beach. We did not want a theme that was only suitable for young children and wanted it to be inclusive.'

Although progress has been made in the development of age appropriate wards, demand for beds and budgetary constraints mean that teenage-exclusive wards are yet to be introduced into our hospitals.

So for now, it looks like we'll have to continue to choose between a women's weekly or watching Waybuloo.

Emily Oxbury, 13, Thorpe St Andrew School

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