Mental health services in England are a long way from fulfilling a government target to stop admissions of young people into adult psychiatric wards, according to a report by the children’s commissioner for England.
Al Aynsley-Green slammed a lack of progress following a study by his office in January 2007 that highlighted the often extremely poor experiences of children on adult wards.
The government has pledged that no one under 16 should be admitted an adult ward by November. Last year, it gave child and adolesent mental health services £31m to meet the target and the requirement under the Mental Health Act 2007 to ensure that all young people are admitted to hospitals in an environment suitable to their needs from April 2010.
But in the report published yesterday, the commissioner revealed serious shortages of properly-trained staff, activities, and children-friendly information on adult wards.
Around 10% of primary care trusts and mental health trusts responded inadequately, or not at all, of the commissioner’s recommendations made 20 months ago.
Aynsley-Green applauded some trusts that had showed a “real determination” to act on his 2007 recommendations but added: “It is clear that for other [trusts], much still needs to be done to ensure young people placed on adult wards have the appropriate level of care and support that they need.”
The report, Out of the Shadows, was co-authored by YoungMinds and Very Important Kids, a panel of young service users set up to advise YoungMinds and other organisations. It comes shortly before the publication of a national review of children and adolescent mental health services in England, due later this month.
In response, Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confereration’s mental health network, admitted that a “relatively small” number of trusts still needed to improve their treatment of children.
“The case for investing in child mental health and health generally is unarguable. This report will be useful in helping trusts identify where improvements need to be made,” he said.
A Department of Health spokewoman said the government was confident that all trusts would ensure that no under 16-year-olds would be treated on adult psychiatric wards by next month, and that all under-18s would be treated in an age-appropriate environment in hospital by April 2010.
But she rejected a ban on 16 and 17-year-olds being placed on adult wards, arguing that some patients would not be treated in an environment “in line with their wishes” such as where a mature teenager might wanted to be treated as an adult.
Standard 9 of National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services
CAMHS review – information on Department for Children, Schools and Families website
Four Children’s Commissioners’ joint report on the state of children’s rights in the UK