‘Scandal’ Of Children On Adult Psychiatric Wards

TWENTY South Yorkshire children have been treated on adult psychiatric wards – despite a warning the practice is a “national scandal”.

Figures released to the Conservative Party under the Freedom of Information act show 17 youngsters aged 16 or 17 have been treated on adult wards by Sheffield Care Trust in the last three years.

Three more 16 or 17-year-olds were treated by Barnsley Primary Care Trust last year.

Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the Children’s Comm-issioner for England, has criticised the treatment of child mental heath patients alongside adults.

Two years ago he branded the practice a “national scandal”, adding: “It wouldn’t surprise me if children leave adult wards worse than when they went in.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Sheffield, which commissions in-patient mental health services for 16 and 17-year-olds for Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust, said action was being taken to en-sure teenagers are not treated alongside adults in future.

“NHS Sheffield was working towards all 16 and 17-year-olds being admitted to separate, age-appropriate accommodation by an agreed date of April 2010,” she said.

A spokesman for NHS Barnsley said every effort was made to keep the number of teenagers admitted for psychiatric treatment in adult wards to a minimum.

“Unfortunately, as there are currently no dedicated child and adolescent mental health beds in Barnsley or South Yorkshire for 16-year-olds who have left school, NHS Barnsley has no option but to arrange for treatment on adult wards.

“This is a reflection of the situation nationwide.

“However, a specialist commissioners group is currently in discussions with the Sheffield adolescent unit to extend the current age range from ‘up to 16’ to also include 16 to 18-year-olds.

“NHS Barnsley, in collaboration with Barnsley Council, is working hard to meet the Department of Health’s target of all under-18s being treated in an age-appropriate environment in hospital by 2010.”

The Department of Health has pledged that by November this year, no under-16s will be treated on an adult psychiatric wards. By April 2010 all under-18s should be treated in an “age-appropriate environment in hospital”.

But a Department of Health spokesman said some 16 and 17-year-olds will continue to be treated alongside adults after 2010.

He said: “It would be inappropriate to introduce an absolute prohibition of 16 to 17-year-olds being placed on an adult ward, as this would mean some patients would not be treated in an environment suitable for their needs and in line with their wishes.”

The figures also reveal 1,238 Sheffield Care Trust patients were assaulted – 145 sexually – by other patients between 2005 and 2008.There were 75 assaults in Barnsley PCT in the same period, of which four were sexual.