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Children with mental health problems ‘still being treated on adult wards’

Dozens of children with mental health problems are being treated on adult psychiatric wards despite the practice being banned, it has been reported.
Child and adolescent mental health

Dozens of children with mental health problems are being treated on adult psychiatric wards despite the practice being banned, it has been reported.

New figures are said to also show the number of under-18s receiving treatment alongside adults who may have severe psychiatric problems is expected to rise, with hundreds receiving treatment on adult wards.

Data released to The Guardian by NHS Digital showed 260 under-18s in England were treated alongside adults from January to July this year, despite the practice being forbidden under rules brought in under a Labour government in April 2010.

There were 39 children aged 15 or under, 90 16-year-olds and 131 17-year-olds over the period, although some may have appeared in the figures for more than one month, The Guardian said.

The Mental Health Act stipulates that the patient's environment in the

Dozens of children with mental health problems are being treated on adult psychiatric wards despite the practice being banned, it has been reported.


Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

New figures are said to also show the number of under-18s receiving treatment alongside adults – who may have severe psychiatric problems – is expected to rise, with hundreds receiving treatment on adult wards.

Data released to The Guardian by NHS Digital showed 260 under-18s in England were treated alongside adults from January to July this year, despite the practice being forbidden under rules brought in under a Labour government in April 2010.

There were 39 children aged 15 or under, 90 16-year-olds and 131 17-year-olds over the period, although some may have appeared in the figures for more than one month, The Guardian said.

The Mental Health Act stipulates that ‘the patient's environment in the hospital [should be] suitable having regard to his age (subject to his needs)’.

Number of cases set to rise

In exceptional circumstances, such as an emergency, 16 and 17-year-olds can be treated on adult wards, but under-16s should never be admitted to an adult ward.

In 2014-2015 a total of 391 young people were treated on adult wards, with most cases being in the north of England.

The total number of beds in children and young people’s mental health services has increased to 1,442, according to Department of Health figures.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said in response to these figures: ‘The number of children in adult psychiatric wards has gone down by over 60% since 2010.

A last resort

‘However this type of care should be an absolute last resort, once all other avenues have been exhausted – but to help ease demand. We recently opened 50 new beds [in children and young people’s mental health services], increasing the total number to the highest there has ever been.

‘We are investing £1.4 billion in children and young people’s mental health over this parliament, one of the largest investments the sector has ever seen, and have made more money available than ever before for mental health, increasing our investment every year since 2010 to a record £11.7 billion last year.’

Meanwhile, NHS data suggests that about 450 children and young people will pass through adult psychiatric wards in England in 2016.

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