Hunt warned CAMHS shortfalls are risking Mental Health Act ‘breaches’

Former health minister writes to Jeremy Hunt to alert him that a shortage of beds at his local young people's mental health units is leading to young people being placed in adult psychiatric units.

Picture: Burger/Phanie/Rex Features

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been warned that young people in mental health crisis are ending up placed in adult psychiatric units due to a shortage of beds in children’s mental health units in parts of the country.

In a letter to Hunt, former health minister Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said a lack of suitable Tier 4 beds in Devon had led to young people being placed on adult wards “in breach of the Mental Health Act”. The beds crisis meant that young people have been placed in units as far away as Hull, Lancashire and Newcastle, a situation the MP described as “clearly unacceptable”.

Section 31 of the Mental Health Act 2007 places a duty on hospital managers to ensure that patients under 18 are accomodated in an environment that is suitable for their age. For all children under 16, and most young people aged 16 or 17 years, the most appropriate environment will usually be a children and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) inpatient service although there may be exceptions.

Bradshaw warned that rising demand for Camhs beds and confusion over who funds out-of-hours services was exacerbating the problem in his area.

“[These] three problems seem to have come together here to cause what one senior local mental health provider described to me as a ‘crisis’ in care for vulnerable young people,” he wrote.

In a statement the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said commissioners and clinicians are working to address the issues raised by Bradshaw.

“As the commissioner of Tier 3 Camhs the CCG works closely with NHS England, which is responsible for commissioning specialised Tier 4 Camhs,” said the spokesman.

“We are aware that there has been an increase in demand in the number of young people who require inpatient Camhs and this, along with a reduction in the availability of beds, has caused delays to the service and on occasion meant individuals may have been temporarily admitted to a local adult inpatient ward while a Camhs bed becomes available.”

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