Children should have the right to speak to doctors without parent being present, according to new guidance.

Recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), which is subject to consultations, says children under the age of 17 should be given the option to receive medical information in a private setting.

The document says health staff should “ensure information for children and young people is provided privately when appropriate, for example: without their parents or carers present if this is what they would prefer; by telephoning or texting them directly (and) by addressing letters to children or young people themselves, and not their parents or carers.”

Staff are told they should agree with a child or young person if some information like symptoms to look out for or post-treatment care should be shared with parents.

Current NHS guidance for parents states that once children reach the age of 16, they can agree to examination or treatment just like adults.

It adds that “children under 16 may still be able to give consent for themselves, provided they are mature enough to understand fully what is involved”.

The new Nice (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guideline says poor experiences in dealing with the NHS may lead some children to suffer anxiety and experience worse health outcomes.

The document, which has been developed with children and young people, urges staff to “give all children and young people opportunities to express their opinions about their health needs independently”.

Furthermore, they should be encouraged “to develop their confidence in making decisions for themselves”.

Parents and carers should be helped to talk to their child about how they will be involved in decisions about their healthcare, and this might include the “parent or carer reassuring their child or young person that they can have part or all of an appointment without them being present if they prefer.”

The document urges healthcare workers not to assume that “certain groups of children or young people will not want or will not be able to advocate for themselves”.

Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, said: “We know that young people are more likely to look for health advice online or on social media so it’s important they are advised which sources are reliable and trustworthy.

“Younger patients have historically been seen as more ‘passive’ recipients of healthcare than adults, but supporting them to truly understand their condition and treatment can help them to feel more confident engaging with healthcare staff.

“We’re very pleased that this draft guideline has been developed with input from children and young people, and hope that it will provide healthcare staff with clear guidance on how to engage effectively with younger patients.”

Catherine White, chairwoman of the guideline committee, added: “By placing babies, children and young people at the heart of their healthcare, we can improve not only their experience of the healthcare system but also their health outcomes.

“An important way to do this is by finding ways to communicate with children and young people in a way that is engaging and understandable.”