Beds crisis hits NHS care for mentally ill children
Hospitals have been advised to adopt emergency procedures and admit young mental health patients to adult wards.
The NHS crisis intensified this weekend as hospitals were advised to adopt emergency procedures and admit young mental health patients to adult wards because of an acute national shortage of places for children and adolescents.
Instructions sent by NHS England on Friday night to hospital trusts, and leaked to the Observer, state that the shortage of beds for young mental health patients is now so serious that 16- and 17-year-olds – who should be admitted to specialist child adolescent mental health facilities (CAMHS) – are likely instead to be admitted to adult wards.
The Mental Health Act 1983 states that 16- and 17-year-olds should only be admitted to adult wards in a “crisis situation” and for a short period, or where a patient is nearly 18 and the adult ward has appropriate specialist services.
Labour’s shadow minister for public health, Luciana Berger, described the situation as “utterly appalling” and blamed the crisis on £50m of cuts to children’s mental health services since 2010.
In the email seen by the Observer, which was sent on Friday on the instruction of national officials working for NHS England, the medical director for East Anglia, says: “I have just been asked to inform you all by the national specialist commissioning team of the current national lack of child and adolescent mental health beds.
“I do hope that you will not have cause to need one for any of your young population over the weekend but just to advise of the likely challenge if you do … Depending on your hospital policy this is likely to mean the 16- 18-year-olds will need admission to the adult wards, which I appreciate causes an even bigger challenge.”
NHS England declined to say whether similar instructions had been issued nationwide, as the memo suggested. But a spokesman said beds were still available for the most serious cases.
“Since August last year we’ve opened an extra 46 beds for children with the most severe mental health needs. Many need this care so, while beds are available we have asked services to ensure they have plans in place for any young person with mental health problems to receive the right care, in the right place at the right time to suit their individual needs.”
Sarah Brennan, chief executive of the mental health charity YoungMinds, said: “It is unacceptable that children and young people are being placed on adult wards which is completely inappropriate for them, and which the Mental Health Act rightly says should not happen. Young people in crisis should also not be transferred hundreds of miles to get a bed, which is going to be the result of this situation and in fact has been for far too long.
For full story follow the link http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jan/31/nhs-crisis-mentally-ill-children-adult-wards