Children's service providers urge government to up its game over number of mentally ill young people being treated in adult wards

Published on December 1, 2022

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of specialist children’s services, is urging the Scottish Government to up its game in response to a report out today (1st December), highlighting an increase in the number of young people under 18 being admitted to non-specialist hospital wards for the treatment of mental illness.

The figures in the report from the Mental Welfare Commission noted that in 2021/22 there were 90 admissions involving 80 young people to mainly adult wards, an increase on 2020/21 when there were 86 admissions involving 62 young people. This is the first increase in admissions since 2018/19.

The coalition has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that there are adequate numbers of specialist hospital beds that can address an increasing need, including the provision of inpatient services north of Dundee, which do not currently exist. It has also called on it to refocus its efforts on preventative and early intervention measures, ensuring that issues do not escalate to the extent they require the provision of these costly specialist services.

There are a number of differences between specialist units and wards designed to treat the needs of adults with serious mental illness, both in terms of staff training and the overall ward environment. Admission of a young person to an adult ward should therefore only be acceptable in rare situations and the SCSC has raised concerns that the needs of a young person may not be met in an appropriate way when admitted to an adult mental health ward as opposed to a specialist inpatient unit.

While not directly comparable in timescales, the admission figures can be read alongside the latest Public Health Scotland data which shows that from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, 51.3 per cent of overall admissions of children and young people under the age of 18 for mental health treatment were to non-specialist wards. This was the first time in recent years that the majority of admissions were not to specialist child and adolescent inpatient units.

However, despite a greatly increased demand for mental health services, there are currently only 48 specialist hospital beds provided by the NHS in Scotland for children and young people (aged 12 to 18) with mental health problems, provided in three child and adolescent inpatient units.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“We are deeply concerned about the increasing number of those being admitted to adult mental health wards, often inappropriate to their needs, both in terms of staff training and the ward environment. The Scottish Government needs to up its game on this and provide adequate facilities, ensuring that there are sufficient specialist bed numbers for those requiring them. There is also currently no specialist child and adolescent inpatient provision north of Dundee, and this requires to be urgently addressed.

“For children and young people who require inpatient mental health care, a lack of such services means that they frequently remain at home, often until the family reaches crisis point, leaving them feeling isolated and delaying recovery.

“These are among the most vulnerable members of our society and we owe it to them to give them the adequate care and support that they need.”


Notes to Editors

About the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, as well as support to their families or carers.

It seeks to improve the lives of these children and young people, and its vision is to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up in.

The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning to improve support for these vulnerable individuals. This seeks to ensure that a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and easily accessible services is provided.  Tailored to individual needs this will help them to achieve their full potential.

Members of the SCSC are:

  • Falkland House School: An independent school based in Fife that specialises in the education and care of boys who require additional support for learning.
  • LOVE Learning: An education and social care charity that uses innovative ways to engage vulnerable individuals in learning and raise their attainment. This includes programmes that support children and young people through intensive early years programmes, as well as supporting them in the classroom and outside the education system.
  • Spark of Genius: An independent organisation offering residential care, education, autism services, post-16 employability programmes and adult services.
  • Young Foundations: An independent organisation specialising in the care of children and young people with a range of complex

Further information about the SCSC is available at

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