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Student Health Services

Volume 588: debated on Tuesday 25 November 2014

All patients are eligible to register with local primary medical care services, and that includes students who are moving away from home and starting university.

I do not think that the Minister has entirely engaged with the question. Those who run the student health services at Bristol university are warning that young people’s health is very much overlooked and underfunded—particularly mental health, which accounts for a quarter of all consultations. They are being hit by the GP funding changes and by cuts in public health spending on sexual health advice, and they have had to introduce their own meningitis vaccination programme because the Government have not introduced one. What support can the Minister give specifically to student health services?

I certainly remember being actively encouraged to register with a local GP when I was a student at Bristol university, and I understand that that continues today. As for the important question of children’s and young people’s mental health, the children’s mental health and well-being taskforce is looking at the mental health and well-being of students. Student Minds is involved in the process, and that in particular will help to inform the work of the taskforce in improving access to students with mental ill health.

Students do register with a practice in their university cities, but I was told recently by one of my constituents that she had experienced difficulty in gaining access to timely health care as a temporary resident when she was back at home. What options are available to ensure that students remain registered in the place where they are likely still to be spending half the year?

We recommend that all students register with university services, or with a GP in their university areas, but if patients are away from the GP with whom they are registered for more than 24 hours and less than three months—and that would include students—they can see a GP in the area where they are staying as temporary residents. GPs should be aware of that entitlement.

Students with long-term illnesses such as diabetes find it extremely difficult to manage their conditions, and there is evidence that a number of students are skipping their insulin injections. What further steps can be taken to make them aware of the necessity for them to take that important medication?

This is an incredibly important area of health care. How do we support young people through periods of transition? We know that people with long-term illnesses may struggle particularly, and diabetes and epilepsy are two of the conditions that have been identified. NHS England is currently examining transitional care tariffs to support people during the transition between children’s and adult health services, and educational support is part of that ongoing work.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities recently announced that there would be no cap on the number of students wishing to study pharmacy. Does my hon. Friend agree that Plymouth university should now press ahead with the setting up of a pharmacy school given that it is the Peninsula medical school?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I visited the Peninsula medical school and his local university to highlight some of their excellent work in training medical and dental students. I believe that there is ample scope to expand provision to train other health care professionals in what is becoming an outstanding medical and health care training facility.