Responding to the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland report on admissions of children and young people to non-specialist hospital wards for treatment of their mental health difficulties, a spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition commented:
“It is clearly disappointing to note the report by the Mental Welfare Commission which states that 103 admissions to non-specialist mental health wards were recorded nationally, involving 90 young people under the age of 18. This is an increase from the 71 admissions involving 66 young people in the previous year.
“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 (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.
“Given the lack of provision, many children and young people with severe mental health problems are therefore being admitted to non-specialist adult and paediatric hospital wards, settings which are in many cases inappropriate for their needs.
“Under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment(Scotland) Act 2003 Health Boards are required to provide appropriate services and accommodation for young people admitted to hospital for treatment of their mental disorder.
“Given admissions to non-specialist mental health wards, it is clearly arguable whether appropriate services are being provided. 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, experience and the overall ward environment. Given this, there is a clear concern that the needs of a young person may not be met in comparable way when admitted to an adult mental health ward as opposed to a specialist adolescent unit.
“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.”