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Young mental health patients 'treated on adult wards'


Hundreds of children with mental health problems are being treated on adult psychiatric wards, the BBC has reported.

A Freedom of Information request by the broadcaster to NHS mental health trusts in England also found many young people were being placed hundreds of miles away from home for treatment.

Figures from 51 of the 58 trusts showed that 350 under-18s have been admitted so far to adult mental health wards in 2013-14, compared with 242 two years earlier.

They also revealed that 12 under-16s have been admitted so far in 2013-14, compared with just three in 2011-12.

Ten trusts had sent children more than 150 miles away for care.

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust said it had to transfer a child 275 miles away to Bury in Greater Manchester because there was no bed available nearer home.

Dr Michael McClure, clinical director of children’s and adolescent’s mental health services at Central and North West London Foundation Trust, said doctors face this problem every day.

“Sometimes we have to make 50 to 100 phone calls around the country looking for a bed,” he told the BBC.

“They [young people] shouldn’t be shunted around into inappropriate facilities, however much the staff there try to help them,” said Dr McClure.

“It may be the first time they’ve had a breakdown. They need to stay in touch with the people they know and love, and if they’re having to move 200 or 300 miles, it’s very difficult for the family to stay in touch.”

Dr Jacqueline Cornish, NHS England’s national clinical director for children, young people and transition to adulthood, said treating children with mental health problems in adult settings was “totally unacceptable in the majority of cases”.

Jacqueline Cornish

Jacqueline Cornish

NHS England is conducting a three-month “rapid review” into the situation, she told the BBC.

The Department of Health said children and young people’s mental health was a priority.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: “The increasing number of young people under the age of 18 being admitted to adult psychiatric wards is a wake-up call to both the pressures being faced by children in their lives today, and the need to radically rethink and change the way we support children and families’ health.

“Four years after the Department of Health was supposed to have stopped the practice of children being treated on adult wards, many of these vulnerable young people are being sent miles away from home to receive treatment at a time when they most need the support of their families.

“It is not appropriate to treat young people in psychiatric wards designed for adults,” she added.


Readers' comments (4)

  • Is anyone going to look at the cuts in CAMHS beds and community services which lie behind this?

    Or look at how CAMHS staff who have tried to highlight such difficulties have been ignored for years or harassed and victimised by management and forced out of jobs?

    Or the role that managers have played by cutting services?

    Or commissioners by either not commissioning enough services or de-commissioning existing services?

    Those are the areas where the real stories lie, but have any of the media been interested in those?


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  • More thoughts on this one:

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  • the rise of LEAN and CAPA and the subsequent closures of Residential Adolescent Units such as Northgate Clinic a year or so ago is another reason for this crisis. Another knock on affect that no one seems to be considering, In lieu of these closures, good experienced Child and Adolescent Consultant Psychiatrists are leaving British shores in DROVES due to these and other short sighted penny pinching management outcomes. Child and adolescent mental health treatment in the UK use to be the envy of the western world, it is now under resourced, undermanned, and undermined if treatment sessions are longer than 8-10 sessions. NO CREATIVITY or the dignity of risk is allowed and encouraged in treatment, as CAMHS is hamstrung by managing risk TO KEEP THE ORGINISATION SAFE FROM LITIGATION. Treatment is now dominated by ACT, CBT,CAPA, DBT, LEAN, short term treatment outcomes and residential bed shortages.

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  • There is also the related problem, certainly in the secure hospital sector, that sees well-placed young people suddenly moved from adolescent units into adult services because they've had their 18th birthday and suddenly there are "safeguarding concerns". Identifying appropriate services should be needs lead, age is rarely the most important factor.

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