A leading coalition of independent and third sector children and young people’s service providers has urged the Scottish Government to act urgently as new figures out today (24th September) indicate an increased number of children and young people (under-18) with mental health problems being admitted to non-specialist adult and paediatric hospital wards.
Figures from the Mental Welfare Commission saw 207 young people being admitted to such non-specialist wards in 2014/15 - largely adult wards - up from 202 in 2013/14 and an increase from 149 in 2008/9. This amounts to an increase of 39 percent since 2008/9.1
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition has expressed concern at this increase, calling for greater specialist inpatient provision and for more attention to be paid to early intervention and provision. These figures are also set against a background of greatly increased demand for mental health services, and many of these young people may not be getting the specialist support they both deserve and require.
Under Section 23 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003 a responsibility is placed on NHS Boards to provide accommodation and services to meet the needs of persons under the age of 18. Needs which may not be met if a young person is admitted, for example, to an adult psychiatric ward.
The Coalition also echoed the Commission’s concerns at the variable level in specialist support on offer across the country. In some areas there is good support from specialist social workers and others, and the young person is provided with age-appropriate activities. In other areas, this is much less likely.
There are, for example, only 48 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) inpatient beds in Scotland, located in three regional CAMHS inpatient units (Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow). There is also no inpatient bed provision north of Dundee.
In addition, there is no secure/locked provision in Scotland for under-18s - all three adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Units are open wards and there are no unit for those with severe learning disabilities. Thus those with forensic needs, or challenging behaviours and learning disabilities, are being treated in unsuitable environments or are sometimes sent to units in England. Because of the lack of inpatient services, children who require inpatient admission are left longer in the care of their families, often until the family reaches crisis point.
These families are left coping for months, or even years, with children and young people with extreme obsessive behaviour, violent behaviour towards family members, and self-harm. It is a regular occurrence that children who are sent for inpatient admission and treatment in England cannot be discharged back to Scotland because of the lack of suitable support in Scotland.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition commented:
“While we welcome the increased investment the Scottish Government is putting into child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), these figures out today are deeply disturbing and highlight the need for greater impatient provision.
“But money on its own will not solve the problem – the Government and Health Boards need to look at what is causing young people to be placed in non-specialist wards, and whether early intervention and preventative measures can address these issues.
“Experiencing mental health problems is extremely traumatic for anyone, but especially so for a child or young person, as well as their families.
“Our concern is that these young people may not be getting the age-appropriate support and care that they require and the Scottish Government must look to ensure that NHS Health Boards are providing the support these vulnerable young people so desperately need.”
1 Mental Welfare Commission, Statistical Young People Monitoring 2014/15. Available at: http://www.mwcscot.org.uk/media/240702/yp_monitoring_report_2014-15.pdf
For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].
Notes to Editors