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Effective healthcare communication with children and young people: a systematic review of barriers and facilitators
  1. Alice Navein1,
  2. James McTaggart2,3,
  3. Xanthe Hodgson4,
  4. Joanna Shaw5,
  5. Dougal Hargreaves6,
  6. Eva Gonzalez-Viana7,8,
  7. Agnesa Mehmeti8
  1. 1 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, UK
  2. 2 Highland Council, Inverness, UK
  3. 3 School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
  4. 4 Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  5. 5 London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, London, UK
  6. 6 Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  7. 7 Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK
  8. 8 National Guideline Alliance, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to James McTaggart, Highland Council, Inverness IV3 5NX, UK; jlmctaggart{at}


Objective To identify children and young people’s preferences for effective healthcare communication.

Design A systematic review of qualitative studies was conducted to identify evidence from children and young people on effective healthcare communication. Electronic databases and reference lists of relevant articles were searched to July 2020.

Results A total of 13 studies were included. Five major themes were identified: medical information (timing, amount, coordination and futures), person not patient (creating relationships, time, nurse involvement, sensitivity), type of communication (creative and interactive, behavioural, talking and listening, written communication), consultations (first impressions, with and without parents, actively promoting involvement, open and honest, age appropriate) and communication with parents (using parental knowledge, support).

Conclusions Research in this area remains sparse and consistent implementation is debateable. Children and young people articulate a preference for two-way healthcare communication. General principles for effective communication are identified as well as the need to avoid making assumptions and to tailor approaches to individuals. Establishing and maintaining relationships is essential and requires time and resources. Parents and carers have a positive role in healthcare communication which needs to be balanced with the needs and rights of children. All these factors also apply to children with communication difficulties or from marginalised groups, but additional extra support may be required.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42019145539.

  • Adolescent Health
  • Child Health
  • Primary Health Care
  • Child Health Services
  • Nursing Care

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Contributors The guideline referred to in this paper was produced by the NGA at the RCOG for NICE. All authors of this paper were on the guideline committee and involved in developing the guideline. JM accepts full responsibility as guarantor for this publication. AN, AM and EG-V were responsible for carrying out the search and data analysis of this systematic review. JM, DH, XH and JS contributed to the recommendations from the review and jointly prepared and wrote this paper along with the other authors.

  • Funding This work was supported by NICE.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.