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Transition between children's and adult health services


Children's and adult health services are organised differently.

If your young person has lots of health needs, there may be many changes to how they receive their health care and support as an adult.

In health care the term 'transition' is used to describe the move between children's and adult health care team.

Young people move from children to adult health services usually between the ages of 16 and 18. It is important to start planning the move from children's health services to adult health services around the age of 14.

All children's and adults' services should give children, young people and their parents/carers information about what to expect from services during transition and what support is available. This information should be given before care moves across to adult teams so that young people and their parents/carers can familiarise themselves with the pathway.

Planning process

Most health providers have a lead professional coordinating transition between Paediatric and Adult services. If your child has complex health needs, there will be a key professional to support you and your child through your transition to adult services.

  • You and your child should be at the centre of the planning process.
  • You should be invited to ask questions, give views and make decisions.
  • The professionals supporting you and your child should listen and involve you and your child in decisions about the future.

Once your child's care moves to adult services, your GP will be the key professional overseeing your care. It is important to be registered with a GP. You can find out how on the NHS website (opens new window).

People aged 16 or over are entitled to consent to their own treatment. This can only be overruled in exceptional circumstances. There is a legal framework known as The Mental Capacity Act which is designed to protect and support people who may lack the mental capacity to make their own safe decisions about a range of subjects. It applies to people aged 16 and over.

If your young person has an education, health and care (EHC) plan their health needs will be recorded as part of their plan. It is important that the professionals who have supported your young person as a child, speak to their colleagues in adult health services in plenty of time. This is to ensure adult staff are fully trained to meet your young person's health needs and there is time to make necessary adjustments to access the service and meet their health needs.

Transition healthcare plan

Young people with complex health needs should have a transition healthcare plan. The healthcare plan should include information to help plan your young person’s transition to adult life: 

  • The health support your young person needs in hospital, school, at home, in employment and when they are in the community
  • How your young person will receive health support
  • The key professionals who are involved in planning your young person’s transfer between children’s and adult health services
  • Those responsible for delivering your young person’s health care support when they become an adult
  • How your young person is supported to manage their own medical condition
  • The plans that have been made for your young person to meet all new staff, so they feel safe and confident with their new arrangements

Health support services

More detailed information can be found in the Being Healthy transition guide (PDF) [1MB]  under Transferring to specialist health services

Other adult health services

As your young person moves to college, day services, employment, respite care or a new home, they may need a new specialist adult physiotherapist, occupational therapist, learning disabilities nurse or speech and language therapist.

Read more about health services for children and young people with SEND

Young people with life limiting conditions

Together for short lives is a charity that offers transition support for young people with life limiting or life-threatening conditions. It sets out key standards and goals across healthcare, social care, education, work and housing.

Some young people will have access to specialist paediatric nursing services, home support and residential respite services such as The Squirrels or support from Quidenham Hospice (EACH).

Some young people will get NHS continuing care and will be eligible for NHS continuing healthcare for adults.

It is very important that health and social care planning for young people with life limiting conditions begins early. Wherever possible children's and adult health services should overlap. This is to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible, with new staff gaining experience from existing staff.

Young people with mental ill health conditions

Health support for young people with mental ill health comes from the Children and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS).

It is very important that health staff working with CAMHS are aware of any ongoing health or social care needs when a young person reaches adulthood. Referrals should be made in good time.

CAMHS should also be fully involved with the education planning process for young people, both with and without an education, health and care (EHC) plan.

Referrals for NHS adult mental health services:

Referrals for adult social care services