Vulnerable young sent to adult psychiatric units in Devon “unacceptable”, says health minister
Ministers have accepted it is "unacceptable" young people with mental health problems in Devon were sent to adult psychiatric care units.
As reported in the Western Morning News in August, Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, claimed the NHS was in "crisis" after revealing the concerns of health professionals in the region.
They were also worried about vulnerable adolescents from the county being sent to Hull, Newcastle and Lancashire.
In the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Bradshaw said it was "scandalous" young people have been admitted to adult mental health residential units, which is "in clear breach" of the Mental Health Act 2007.
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In response, Health Minister Norman Lamb said it was concerning and unacceptable that children suffering with mental health issues were being separated from their families in order to receive treatment far from home and being treated as adults. MPs from other parts of the country raised similar concerns.
Mr Bradshaw, a former Health Minister, has argued rising demand and a shortage of residential places for those suffering from the most serious problems – such as violent behaviour or life-threatening eating disorder – has been compounded by a massive shake-up in the NHS, creating problems with out-of-hours care.
After repeating the criticism in Parliament, he asked the minister: "Will he look at the cases I have raised with the Secretary of State of young people from my constituency being sent to Newcastle – the North East of England – and all over the country, and being sent to adult wards, in breach of the law?"
Mr Lamb, a Liberal Democrat, said NHS bosses are carrying out a review, but insisted units must be within "reasonable reach".
He said: "When I hear reference to children being placed in adult services, I find that as unacceptable as he does. I want to understand how it has happened and bring it to an end.
"NHS England is carrying out a review over a three-month period to assess the facilities for tier four services (day units or overnight residence) to ensure that sufficient services are available in all parts of the country.
"Because of the nature of the specialism, they cannot be in every town and city, but they must be within reasonable reach. That is exactly what the review is seeking to undertake."
Responding to claims by former Health Secretary Alan Johnson that as many as 13 people in the Hull area, diagnosed with a mental illness, were being sent far from home for treatment, Mr Lamb undertook took to look into the matter.
Saying he spoke as a parent, as well as a minister, he said: "I absolutely share your concern, and the concern of other members who talk about children being sent long distances away from home. As a parent I would feel exactly the same concern.
"The most important thing is for them to be in the right facility, with the right care and treatment. And because in-patient treatment – because we are trying to care for more youngsters in the community – the specialist units become more specialist and it's not right for a child, for example with an eating disorder, to be put into an in-patient unit, which isn't specialist in eating disorder. So getting the right facility is critical.
"But that sort of distance causes me very real concern. I just accept that and it's something that we need to address."
NHS bosses in Devon admitted "on occasion" young people had been admitted to adult mental facilities, an issue they were addressing.