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Further drop in number of young people with mental illness being treated in non-specialist wards

18 October 2017

A report published today shows a significant drop in the number of young people with mental illness being treated in non-specialist wards in Scotland for 2016-17, in a similar pattern to the previous year.

Over the last two years the number has reduced by around two thirds.

The figures have gone from a high of 207 admissions across Scotland in 2014-15 involving 175 young people, to 71 admissions involving 66 young people in 2016-17. Most of these admissions were to adult wards.

In publishing the data, the Mental Welfare Commission welcomed the change, and the hard work across the country that led to it.

Dr Gary Morrison, Executive Director (Medical) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said:

"Children and young people under the age of 18 who need hospital treatment for mental illness should, wherever possible, be treated in a specialist unit, designed to care for their age group.

"We have raised concerns in the past when we saw the numbers going to non-specialist, usually adult wards, rising, and last year we were glad to see a reversal of that trend.

'This year we saw a further drop in those figures, with lower admissions in every health board area in Scotland, and marked reductions in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Tayside, Ayrshire and Arran, and Grampian.

"We know that services have been working hard across the country to achieve this change, and we welcome it."

The reasons for the reductions appear to include:

- the stability of staffing in Scotland's three  specialist in-patient units, which are in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, together with increased bed capacity,

- improvements to admission and discharge procedures in these units,

- an expansion of services provided in the community by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS), particularly their intensive treatment services.

The report includes two recommendations for change. One asked for a review of admissions procedures in the three specialist units to see whether they can improve the out of hours and weekend system for new referrals.

The other recommendation asked the Scottish Government, together with health boards, to review the availability of and access to intensive psychiatric care unit (IPCU) beds nationally for young people.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

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