Belfast Telegraph

Young mental health patients being admitted to adult wards

By Nigel Gould
25 January 2005

Nearly 200 children are admitted every year to adult psychiatry wards across Northern Ireland.

The shock new statistics have sparked calls for more funding for specialist staff and major changes to the way psychiatry services in the province are delivered.

They emerge just a month after the Belfast Telegraph revealed young people here were waiting up to four years for a first appointment with a psychiatrist and follows a number of teenage suicides last year.

The figures were revealed by Health Minister Angela Smith in reply to a written House of Commons question from DUP MP, Iris Robinson.

They show that almost 1,000 children and young people under 18 were admitted to adult psychiatry wards in Northern Ireland over the last five years.

Mrs Robinson said today: "These unsatisfactory admissions have used up 31,000 bed days on adult wards over that period, which translates into 17 beds out of use for adult patients.

"It is difficult enough for any child to be admitted to hospital but undoubtedly much worse if it is onto a ward of older patients with mental health problems."

Admission of children to adult wards was expected to end after the recent opening of a regional inpatient unit for young people, but this new centre has been forced to close to admissions because of a lack of out-of-hours cover.

"We need to invest in more child and adolescent psychiatry staff, not simply consultants but junior medical staff, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and psychotherapists, " she said.

"Child and Adolescent services should be organised on a province-wide basis so every child has the same access to services. I await with interest the Mental Health Review Team's report into services for young people."

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