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Rise in number of young people with mental illness being treated in non-specialist wards - 13 December 2018

13 December 2018

After falling for two years, the number of children and young people reported to the Mental Welfare Commission as being treated for mental illness in non-specialist wards in Scotland rose in 2017-18.

A report published today states that 103 admissions were recorded nationally, involving 90 young people under the age of 18. This compares with 71 admissions involving 66 young people in the previous year.

Almost all of these admissions were to adult wards, with five admissions to general paediatric wards.

The continued lack of intensive psychiatric care facilities in Scotland for children and young people is also highlighted in the report.

Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said:

"The rise in these figures after a two year fall is disappointing. We believe the rise may reflect capacity issues within the mental health system as a whole. We also note that some health boards have markedly higher numbers of admissions to adult wards than others, and would seek clarity on the reasons for this.

"We are also very concerned about the continued lack of intensive psychiatric care facilities in Scotland for children and young people, something we have raised for several years.

"Adult intensive care psychiatric units (IPCUs) can often be unsuitable environments for adolescents. They are specialised environments for adults who are very unwell and present with high risk to themselves or others. They are also used routinely to provide care for adults who are engaged in the criminal justice system and court processes due to the security of the environment.

"We continue to discuss the need for an IPCU facility for children and young people with government, and are asking that it becomes part of the Mental Health Strategy."

Fourteen of the children and young people admitted to non-specialist wards were treated in an adult IPCU, including five who were under the age of 16.

The report gives a breakdown of admission by health board.

Notes to Editors:

Health boards have a legal duty to provide age-appropriate services and accommodation. There are three specialist units for inpatient treatment for children and young people - Skye House in Glasgow which covers the west of Scotland,  the Young People's Unit in Edinburgh which covers the east of the country, and Dudhope House in Dundee which takes patients from the north of Scotland.

In some cases admission to a non-specialist ward may be regarded as the best option for the child or young person, for example, where the admission is for a short period only, and the alternative would means being transferred a long distance from home.

The Commission's figures are a record of all admissions reported to us by health boards. The Commission only includes admissions of one full day or more, and does not include admissions for medical treatment of self harm or alcohol/drug misuse.

The full report is available here.