Campaigners have called for a government investigation into figures which suggest more than a fifth of child mental health in-patients are placed in adult wards.
Care services minister Liam Byrne told parliament there were over 10,000 hospital-occupied bed days for patients aged 16 or 17 between April and June this year, with a further 589 for those aged under-16.
Almost 39,000 bed days were spent by under-18s in specialist child and adolescent wards but Byrne admitted that adult wards were inappropriate for children “with only a few exceptions”.
Young Minds professional advisor Bill Young said the figures did not make it clear whether a small number of children were in adult wards for a long period, or vice versa.
He said there were shortages of specialist beds in certain areas and the figures needed to be broken down by region.
He argued the figures could partly be explained by the fact 16- and 17-year-olds who presented at casualty with self harm were deemed to have too complex needs for paediatric wards and fell between child and adult policies.
Mind policy officer Moira Fraser said more information was needed on what was being done to reduce the figure and what was happening to the children involved.
She said child patients needed a different environment to adults, where their family could be involved and could access education.
Rethink campaigns officer Jane Harris said the government should provide ring-fenced funding for adolescent mental health.
Shadow health minister Tim Loughton said the forthcoming mental health bill should require that children be treated in age appropriate facilities.