More than 80 children admitted to adult psychiatric units last year

More than 80 children were admitted to adult in-patient psychiatric units last year in a practice condemned by campaigners as "shocking".

The Inspectorate of Mental Health Services has released a slew of reports into units around the country, but also focused on child admissions, which the Government’s mental health policy A Vision for Change recommended in 2006 should be scrapped in favour of dedicated child and adolescent units.

The report showed 91 such admissions last year involving 83 children, with the inspectorate claiming it was “concerned about the high number of children being admitted to adult in- patient units, although this number has decreased since 2009”.

It also revealed that a lack of out-of-hours services contributed to the number of admissions, as sometimes children were placed in adult facilities even though suitable child and adolescent beds were available.

According to the report:

- Five children (6% of those admissions) were involuntary, with the status in another case changing from voluntary to involuntary;

- Some 6.6% were under 16 years of age, 37.4% were 16, and 56 % were 17;

- A total of 53% were male and 47% female;

- Some 21% stayed in for at least 10 days and one child stayed for 142 days.

In 62% of cases, the reason given for admitting a child to an adult unit was that no beds were available in an in-patient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services unit. Not all 60 CAMHS beds were operational, the number available “fluctuated” and as of last December stood at just 48, but the lack of out-of-hours services is cited as a factor.

According to the report: “When each admission date of a child to an adult unit was matched with vacancies in CAMHS in-patient units, in all except three cases [88 cases], there were vacancies within one or more of the four HSE CAMHS in-patient units.”

In addition, 23% of admissions of children to adult units took place on either Saturday or Sunday.

“It must be concluded that the admission of children to adult units did not appear to be due to shortage of CAMHS beds within the in-patient system at the time of admission, despite adult services being informed there were no beds available,” the report, by assistant inspector of mental health services, Susan Finnerty, concluded.

Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “These figures represent a clear breach of children’s rights. The practice of treating children in adult mental health facilities must be ended.”

John Saunders, chairman of the Mental Health Commission, said child admissions accounted for one in five of all admissions and the practice “had to stop”.

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