Children Still Being Treated on Adult Mental Health Wards

 7th Dec 2016

Despite the act being banned, hundreds of children have been treated on psychiatric wards designed specifically for adult patients, a new report suggests.

Originally enforced by the Labour party, the law currently prohibits children being placed on adult psychiatric wards to protect them from what can be a potentially traumatising experience.

More specifically, there were found to be 260 children involved in the issue, comprised of 131 17 year olds, 90 16 year olds and 39 children aged just 15 years old.

The data, sent to The Guardian by NHS Digital (formerly HSCIC), also shows how the number of under 18s treated in this way is expected to rise in the coming years.

Contrary to these findings, Healthy Secretary Jeremy Hunt claims the number of these cases has actually dropped by around 60% over the last 6 years.

Between 2014 and 2015, the total number of cases stood at a worrying 391 which proves Hunt’s argument.

Whilst there may be fewer cases, the fact there are any children receiving mental health treatment in adult environments is still a sign of failure due to the absolute ban.

Jeremy Hunt also stated: “However this type of care should be an absolute last resort, once all other avenues have been exhausted.”

The Law

Whilst there may be fewer cases, the fact there are any children receiving mental health treatment in adult environments is still a sign of failure due to the absolute ban enforced on this matter.

Looking more closely, legislation states that children aged 16 and 17 may be treated on adult psychiatric wards in emergency situations only.

For children under the age of 16, the law dictates there are no circumstances where it is permissible for them to be treated alongside adults, and it is here where the law is being breached.

Finally, NHS data predicts that, in 2016, approximately 450 children will be treated on adult psychiatric wards in some way – a number far higher than that of 2014.

With £1.4 billion of investment being made available for children’s mental health care and a “record” £11.7 billion of general funding for mental health, could we be looking at a more promising future?

We are constantly told how more money is being put back into the care system (particularly for mental health), yet there are so many stories such as this which make it easy to feel disheartened, it is hoped this issue is addressed robustly.

In order to protect our children, there needs to be radical rethink in how children’s mental health is managed, this may be in respect of commissioning emergency services which would help limit the number of inpatient admissions to adult environments.

The team at Encompass Dorset help to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and enduring mental health illnesses on a daily basis.

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