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Your rights

Find out about your rights around sex and relationships education, healthcare, and sexual healthcare. 

Your human rights

We all have rights, which are the rules about what is allowed or owed to us according to the law and to ethics. Human rights apply to all human beings. They include things like right to life, right to work and education and the right to decent living conditions.

Included in our human rights is the right to: “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [them]self and of [their] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care”

YOur rights under the United NAtions

As a child (under age of 18), you have rights laid out under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK has signed. These rights include:

  1. The right to non-discrimination (Article 2) 
  2. For your best interests to be a top priority in all decisions that affect you (Article 3) 
  3. To reliable information from a variety of sources (Article 17) 
  4. To express your views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting you and to have your views considered and taken seriously (Article 12) 

Under the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, women also have the right to choose when they want to have children including being able to access information and advice about family planning and the right to make decisions around reproduction free from discrimination, coercion and violence.

Your rights around RSE (Relationships and Sex Education)

In England, all schools must deliver: 

  • Relationships education in primary schools  
  • Relationships and sex education in secondary schools 
  • Health education in all state-funded schools 

Although the school must provide these, if you live in England your parent or carer does have the right to take you out of sex education lessons that forms part of RSE. This applies to primary school (in schools where sex education is delivered) and to secondary school (where sex education must be delivered by all schools).   

However, your parent or carer cannot withdraw you from: 

  • Relationships Education – this is compulsory in primary and secondary schools for all pupils. 
  • Sex education that forms a part of science lessons rather than RSE lessons  

What do I do if my parents or carers withdraw me from sex education?  

You can opt back into sex education lessons three school terms before you turn 16, essentially from when you turn 15. If you want to opt back in, talk to your tutor or teacher who will make arrangements for you to join the lessons. 

What about the rest of the UK?

  • If you live in Wales, your parent/carer does not have the right to withdraw you from Relationships and Sexuality Education.
  • If you live in Northern Ireland, your parent/carer has the right to request that you are removed from Relationships and Sexuality Education. However, it is your school who will decide whether to grant your parent’s request.
  • If you live in Scotland, your parent/carer does not have the right to withdraw you from Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education. However, they can ask the school to remove you from sexual health education. The school will decide whether to grant your parent’s request.

Your healthcare rights

Although under human rights you have the right to a certain level of healthcare, you also have more specific rights relevant in your country. 

In the UK, healthcare is recognised as a basic right, according to various pieces of legislation including the NHS Constitution in England.

These pieces of legislation set out your main rights to healthcare in the UK, the main ones being:

The right to confidentiality

Doctors and nurses have very strict rules on confidentiality and the law says they have to keep all patient records and information completely private. This means that your doctor or nurse can’t talk to anyone about your medical information (such as what has happened in your appointment) and this includes your parents/carers. 

However, in exceptional circumstances, like when a doctor or health worker thinks you or another young person might be at risk of harm, they might feel there is a need to pass information on. If they do, they must talk to you first before they tell anyone else. This applies to everyone, no matter what age you are.

Government guidance for healthcare workers in England means that they are likely to be more worried about people under the age of 13 who are having sex or planning to have sex, and they might think it would be in the young person’s best interest to get some extra help from a social worker.

If you are worried about confidentiality you can always call a healthcare service without telling them who you are and ask them some questions, like:

“Is the information that I give you kept confidential?“

“Do you ever tell anyone else about young people who ask for contraception or advice about sex?“

“Would you ever tell anyone else about my visit without telling me first?“

The right to access your medical records

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you have a legal right to see your medical records.

If you want to see your medical records, ask at your GP surgery and you can arrange a time to go in and read them. Sometimes you might be required to ask in writing. The law states that they have up to one month to respond.

Often, sexual health services will hold a separate set of health records for you that are not linked to the medical records held by your GP. If you wish to see these records, the same laws apply – you can make a request and they have up to one month to respond.

More information about seeing your medical records

The right to make a complaint about a healthcare service you have received

If you’re not happy with the care or treatment you’ve received, or if you’ve been refused treatment for a condition, you have the right to complain and have your complaint investigated.

Most doctors, nurses and health workers want to help you and do all they can to make you feel comfortable when you ask for their advice. However occasionally things go wrong, or you may feel you have been given bad advice.

You can complain in person or ask someone else you trust, such as a family member or friend, to complain on your behalf. It’s best to make your complaint as soon as possible and definitely within six months. You can complain either to the service that you’re unhappy with or you can complain to whoever commissions your local services instead.

If you’ve experienced discrimination by a health or care provider, Citizens Advice have lots of helpful information about what to do next.

  • The right to a doctor of your choice
  • The right to consent or not to consent to treatment, and to retract your consent

Youth-Friendly services guidelines

Building upon the rights young people have around healthcare and services, the UK government has written eight standards of practice (or expectations) for health and wellbeing services. The aim of these standards is to improve young people’s experience by placing their voices at the heart of services and care.

Standards include:

  • Involving young people in the design, delivery and review of services
  • Explaining confidentiality and consent to young people
  • Making young people feel welcome and treating them with compassion

FAQs about healthcare rights

Do my healthcare rights change based on my age?

You have the same rights regardless of what age you are. However, if you are under 16, your doctor or nurse will need to establish if you  are mature enough to fully appreciate what’s involved in your treatment in order to consent to it. This is called ‘Gillick competency’. If they find that you are not Gillick competent then your parent/carer can consent for you if you wish to proceed with the treatment. 

Find out more about Gillick competency

Can other people make a decision on my behalf?

Whether you want someone to be able to make a decision on your behalf or not, the decision is yours. It is your right to nominate someone to make a decision on your behalf, and to not involve them if you don’t want to.

There may be situations where your doctor or nurse thinks you do not have the capacity to consent to treatment, and will require parental consent on your behalf, however it is your right not to involve your parent/carer if you don’t want to; it just means you won’t be able to access that treatment.

The only time anyone will be involved in decision making without your permission is if your doctor or nurse thinks you are at risk of harm from yourself or someone else. Find out more about confidentiality.

What questions will I be asked, and do I have to answer them?

When you go for a sexual health appointment of any kind, your doctor or nurse will ask you lots of questions. This is always within the scope of knowing what treatment and/or service you need, to understand your general wellbeing, and to make sure you are provided with the best care possible. 

Brook services are safe, non-judgemental spaces. It’s a good idea to answer these questions as honestly as you can because this will help your doctor/nurse work out the best care for you. Your answers will always be kept completely confidential, except if you or another person are at risk of harm. 

Some common questions include:

  • Your sex assigned at birth, or what genitals you have (to find out what type of service or treatment is appropriate for you). Find out more [anchor to gender and pronouns]
  • When your last period was (to find out your risk of pregnancy or suitability for starting contraception)
  • Your height and weight (to find out what type of contraception is suitable and/or likely to be effective for you). Find out more [anchor to BMI]
  • If you’re sexually active (to find out if you are at risk of pregnancy and/or an STI)
  • Your gender and sexuality (to find out what type service or treatment might be appropriate based on your sexual activity)
  • Your age
  • If you have a partner or partners, and what age(s) they are (to make sure you are safe and not being taken advantage of by someone significantly older, especially if you are under 18)

Your sexual healthcare rights

When it comes to your rights when accessing sexual healthcare, the above core rights underpin everything. You also have certain rights that are specific to sexual health. 


You have the right to speak confidentially with a doctor, nurse or medical professional about contraception as well as to be provided with it. 

All contraception is free on the NHS in the UK, so you don’t need to pay anything for it. You have the right to choose what type of contraception you would like to use. You also have the right to not use the contraception you are offered or recommended. 

Your right to contraception is the same regardless of your age, however government guidance for health workers in England means that they are likely to be more worried about young people under 13 who are having sex or planning to have sex, and they might think it would be in the young person’s best interest to get some extra help from a social worker.

There are lots of methods of contraception to choose from and different methods suit different people. 


If you’re in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you are entitled to an abortion paid for by the NHS and there are a number of ways you can get one. UK citizens travelling from Northern Ireland to England for abortion can also have the procedure paid for by the NHS.

Brook doesn’t provide abortions, but we can refer you to a service which does. As with all our services and referrals, we guarantee complete confidentiality, as do all of our partners. This means that we do not talk about your visit to anyone outside Brook without your permission unless you or another person are in serious danger. 

Going to a different doctor

you need to see a healthcare professional about a sexual health issue, but don’t want to or can’t go to your GP, you have the right to consult another doctor or nurse.

There could be a number of reasons why you might want to go to a different doctor. 

  • Your usual GP might not provide the specific service you need
  • You might be feeling embarrassed at the thought of talking to your family doctor about sensitive subjects, like abortion or sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing
  • You might just not like your doctor 

Whatever your reason, you always have the right to consult another doctor.

You could opt to see another doctor at your GP surgery and you can ask your new doctor not to tell your regular GP that you have been prescribed contraception if you wish. However, if you’d prefer to go elsewhere entirely, there are lots of options. You can go to your nearest Brook service, young person’s service, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic and get free and confidential medical advice, contraception and treatment. 

Pain relief

Some sexual health procedures offer pain relief as standard, such as local anaesthetic when having an implant inserted or removed. Additionally, all Brook clinics offer pain relief for the insertion and removal of the IUD and IUS, however some clinics don’t. 

If pain relief isn’t offered automatically, you have the right to request it. If you are booked in for a procedure that you would like pain relief for, whether at Brook or elsewhere, you can always ask in advance of the appointment if they offer anaesthesia. 

Gender and pronouns

You have the right to be addressed with your name and pronouns of choice, even if these are different from what is on your medical record. 

However, there may be some situations where you will be asked about your sex assigned at birth or what genitals you have. This is so your doctor or nurse can give you the most suitable treatment or present appropriate healthcare options, such as providing the right STI sampling kit for you or presenting relevant contraception options.

Additionally, at Brook and a lot of other healthcare services, there are often systems which can only record information about your sex in a certain way; they will need to record what your biological sex is, and often the only options on these systems are ‘female’ or ‘male’. However, while your doctor or nurse will probably need to ask about this, they should still respect your right to be referred to according to your gender identity. 

Information about your weight

Your doctor or nurse may ask how much you weigh, or weigh you at your appointment, and/or work out your BMI. This is sometimes required to determine what type of contraception is suitable for you; with some types of contraception there can be a higher chance of complications, or it being less effective, if you have a high BMI. 

However, if you don’t want to know your weight or BMI, you have the right to ask not to be told and to not see the weighing scales as they weigh you. You also always have the right to ask your doctor/nurse why they need to find out your BMI. 

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