The lack of psychiatric care facilities has been blamed after almost 100 incidents of children and young people being admitted to non-specialist adult wards, some containing criminals.
A report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland shows there were 98 admissions to intensive care psychiatric units (ICPUs) designed for adults, while another five were into general paediatric wards. After two years of falling, these figures involving 90 children – show an increase from the 71 admissions involving 66 young people in the previous year.
Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said: “We believe the rise may reflect capacity issues within the mental health system as a whole. 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 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.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We welcome this annual report from the Mental Welfare Commission, which will help us in our work to redesign and improve services for children and young people.
“We agree with the report’s recommendations to improve bed-use efficiency and the provision of intensive psychiatric care.”
Scottish health boards have a legal duty to provide age-appropriate services and accommodation.
The country has just three specialist units for inpatient treatment for children and young people, Skye House in Glasgow covering the west of Scotland, the Young People’s Unit in Edinburgh for the east, and Dudhope House in Dundee, which takes patients from the north of Scotland.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable young people, said: “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.”