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Children's mental health provision criticised

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Children in Wales are being let down by inadequate mental health services, with some young patients treated on adult wards, a multi-agency report has claimed.

Inspectors from four watchdogs found that a lack of specific services led to the “widespread” practice of placing young mental health patients on inappropriate wards.

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales deputy chief executive Mandy Collins said: “It’s far more widespread than we anticipated. There’s a lack of specific services for children and adolescents and the only option then is to admit them on to adult wards or paediatric wards. Neither are right.”

Many adult wards were deemed unsuitable because they are mixed sex and lack privacy, educational opportunities and appropriate restraining techniques.

Staff on paediatric wards may also not have training in restraining children, or dealing with eating disorders and self-harm, the report says.

Wales has two specialist NHS inpatient mental health units for children and young people - one on the site of Abergele Hospital serving north Wales and another for south Wales in Bridgend, where a new £22m unit is due to open in January 2011.

The report adds that teams of specialists in parts of the country struggle to meet children’s needs. The location, environment and opening times of services are often not family friendly.

Young patients who miss appointments are discharged and could be at risk because of a lack of routine follow-up.

Professionals in different organisations do not share information on individual cases in some places, undermining child protection arrangements, the report says.

The availability of day care and eating disorder services in Wales is “particularly patchy and bears little relationship to the local need for such services”.

It is the first time the four watchdogs - Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the Wales Audit Office, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales and education body Estyn - have worked together on a service review.

Health boards and local councils are urged to develop multi-agency plans for implementing the priorities and targets of national policies.

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