Mental Welfare Commission Expresses Concerns For Young People In Adult Psychiatric Wards

Today’s publication of the Mental Welfare Commission’s annual report highlights the number of children and young people who received care and treatment in adult psychiatric wards in Scotland during 2007-08. 

Commenting on the figures, the watchdog called for NHS Boards to make sure that they are fulfilling their legal duty to provide services and hospital accommodation that are appropriate to the needs of under-18 year olds. 
In 2007-08 the Commission identified 142 admissions of young people under the age of 18 to non-specialist services.  Over 90% of these admissions (134) were to adult psychiatric wards.  For 21 of these young people there was no specialist psychiatric input. A similar number did not get access to the education support they were entitled to.  While the Commission acknowledged the achievement of a 24% reduction in admissions to adult wards as a ‘real step forward’, it expressed concerns for the young people who continue to receive care in adult settings.
“We made the monitoring of admissions of young people under-18 a priority, not just because of their vulnerability in adult settings, but because the care and treatment a person gets in early life can have such long-term consequences on individual recovery and welfare” said Commission Director, Dr Donald Lyons. “Being admitted to an adult ward as a young person means that you are less likely to continue to access education, less likely to receive specialist clinical input and less likely to have an allocated social worker. Without specialist assessment and care plans that include social and educational support, the risk of long-term social exclusion increases, as does an individual’s risk of the experiencing further serious mental health problems in future.  It might not always be possible or appropriate for a young person to be admitted to a specialist ward but – whatever the setting – he or she should be guaranteed specialist care and treatment.”

As part of its focus on care and treatment of young people the Commission’s annual report also includes a summary of its investigation into the care and treatment of Ms Y.  Ms Y was a 16 year old girl who received care and treatment on an adult ward from December 2006 to August 2007. During her admission to hospital she received no specialist care, despite a Mental Health Tribunal order that her NHS Board should ensure that this was provided. The Commission’s report, ‘Wrong place, wrong time’ identifies a number of areas of concern, from lack of clarity in diagnosis, to identifiable risks to Ms Y’s health and welfare.  Report recommendations call on the Scottish Government to urgently review the operation of adolescent mental health services across Scotland to ensure a consistent approach to the care and treatment of 16 and 17 year old people.

The Commission plans to visit child and adolescent mental health services across Scotland during 2008-09 to assess how services for children and young people are being developed at a local level.

Meanwhile Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People, Kathleen Marshall, called for more resources to be made available. She said, “It’s vital that young people with mental welfare care needs can access treatment and services that are appropriate. This means reducing admissions to adult wards and providing more specialist support for those who are admitted to adult wards. It also means making sure that the often troubled young people in children’s secure units are able to access mental heath assessment and adolescent facilities where that would be more appropriate and helpful for them.

“The recent UN report on children’s rights noted that while 1 in 10 children in the UK have a mental health problem, only around a quarter of them have access to the required treatment and care. If we are to help what must be one of the most vulnerable groups in society, prevent further illness and tackle social exclusion, there must be a firm commitment to allocate the necessary resources.”