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Rise in number of young people with mental illness being treated in non-specialist wards

After falling for two years, the number of children and young people reported to the Mental Welfare Commission as being treated for mental illness in non-specialist wards in Scotland rose in 2018 and continues to do so.

Section 23 of the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 places on Health Boards in Scotland a legal obligation to provide appropriate services and accommodation for young people who are under the age of 18 years and who are admitted to hospitals for treatment of their mental disorder. Since the implementation of the Act in 2005, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland has monitored the admissions of young people under the age of 18 to non-specialist wards.


Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission said:

“The rise in these figures after a two-year fall is disappointing. We believe the rise may reflect capacity issues within the mental health system as a whole. We also note that some health boards have markedly higher numbers of admissions to adult wards than others, and would seek clarity to the reasons for this.”

“Adult intensive care psychiatric units can often be unsuitable environments for adolescents. They are specialised environments for adults who are very unwell and present with high risk to themselves or others. They are also used routinely to provide care for adults who are engaged in the criminal justice system and court processes due to the security of the environment.”

Health boards have a legal duty to provide age-appropriate services and accommodation. There are three specialist units for inpatient treatment for children and young people – Skye House in Glasgow which covers the west of Scotland, the Young People’s Unit in Edinburgh which covers the east of the country and Dudhope House in Dundee which takes patients from the north of Scotland

The Scottish Government included a number of actions specific to CAMHS in its Mental Health Strategy 2017 – 2027 with the aim of promoting and protecting children’s and young people’s mental health and well being and improving their access to timely, evidence-based intervention and support.

The continued lack of intensive psychiatric care facilities in Scotland for children and young people is also highlighted in the report. Available to read here.


Please contact independent psychiatry for any enquiries. We have experts who provide psychiatric opinions for Courts and Tribunals. We can usually assess clients where they are based including care homes, hospitals and home visits.