TWENTY-ONE young people have been turned away from a specialist mental health clinic due to a lack of beds, the Public Health Minister has revealed.
Maureen Watt said the patients could not be admitted to Dudhope Young People’s Unit in Dundee as it would have been “clinically unsafe” to do so.
The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures in a parliamentary question, said the revelation is “astounding” and highlights the need for more specialist units.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Children are already expected to travel hundreds of miles from Stornoway and Dingwall to a hospital in Dundee for mental health care.
“Now we find out that the lack of resources at this new unit has caused many to be told to go elsewhere. They could be treated even further away from home, privately or in wards that are less suited to their needs.
“This shows the urgent need to invest in CAMHS, train and give staff the support they need, and establish new specialist mental health units north of Dundee.
“We need a step change in mental health to guarantee there are beds close to home when children desperately need them and to end the scandal of children waiting over a year for treatment.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton asked how many children were subsequently admitted to alternative inpatient units in Edinburgh and Glasgow, treated on adult wards, or not admitted at all.
Ms Watt said children “will generally be treated in the community” but “there may be times when it is necessary to admit them to hospital for specialist mental health treatment”.
She added: “Should this be the case they would be admitted to one of the three regional child and adolescent mental health inpatient units, or the national unit for under-12s.
“Requests may come from outwith the region because, while the three units work on a regional basis, each unit will also consider requests from the other regions.
“Children and young people may initially be admitted to one unit and then transferred to another; they may also be admitted to a non-NHS facility or a non-specialist NHS facility and then transfer to Dudhope, or be discharged to the community, or complete their treatment in that facility.
“Reasons for this may include bed availability, a clinical decision, or the preference of a young person and their family.
“Over the period May 2015 to May 2016, there were 21 occasions when a young person could not be admitted to Dudhope Young Persons Unit (YPU) due to the unavailability of a bed.
“On two occasions the request was for a bed for a young person who resided outside the north of Scotland region, whilst the remaining 19 occasions were requests to admit young people residing in the north of Scotland region.
“The reason for beds being unavailable is either due to the unit being at full capacity (no physical beds available) or high patient dependency, making it clinically unsafe to admit any further patients.”