Increase in young people sent to adult mental health wards

Crop young person mental health

Adult psychiatric wards are unsuitable for young people with mental health problems as they sometimes contain people who have been transferred from prison

Graham Martin's photo

13th December 2018 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The number of young people with mental health problems who were sent to unsuitable adult wards has risen by a third.

A report by the Mental Welfare Commission (MWC) reveals that 103 admissions to non-specialist mental health wards were recorded in Scotland last year.

This involved 90 young people under the age of 18 and represents an increase from the 71 admissions involving 66 young people in the previous year.

The MWC says adult psychiatric wards are often unsuitable for young people with mental health problems, not least because they sometimes contain people who have been transferred from prisons or courts.

Because of this, young people can end up locked in secure conditions which may not be necessary.

The MWC is calling for the creation of Intensive Care Psychiatric Units specifically designed to meet the needs of young people.

An alliance of third sector groups, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), said the problem is reflective of under provision of child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

Despite a greatly increased demand on mental health services, there are currently only 48 specialist hospital beds provided by the NHS in Scotland for adolescents with mental health problems.

These are located in three CAMHS inpatient units (in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and there is a further six place unit for five to 12 year olds in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. There is no inpatient provision north of Dundee.

A spokesperson for SCSC said: “Given the lack of provision, many children and young people with severe mental health problems are being admitted to non-specialist adult and paediatric hospital wards, settings which are in many cases inappropriate for their needs.

“The Scottish Government needs refocus its efforts on prevention and early intervention, ensuring that issues do not escalate so that they require the provision of these specialist services, but we also need to ensure that we have adequate specialist bed numbers that can deal with the requirements should the need arise.”

Commenting on the report, Colin McKay, MWC chief executive, said: “The rise in these figures after a two year fall is disappointing. We believe the rise may reflect capacity issues within the mental health system as a whole.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We welcome this annual report from the Mental Welfare Commission, which will help us in our work to redesign and improve services for children and young people.

“We agree with the report’s recommendations to improve bed-use efficiency and the provision of intensive psychiatric care.”