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18 October 2017, 05:27
The number of young people with mental health problems in Scotland being treated in non-specialised wards has fallen by more than 40%.
A Mental Welfare Commission report found there were 71 admissions involving 66 under-18s in 2016-17, mostly to adult wards.
The figures are down from a high of 207 admissions in 2014-15 involving 175 young people and continue the downward trend of 135 admissions involving 118 young people recorded in 2015-16.
Rates fell for every health board and admission figures for young people being treated in non-specialist units fell to single figures in all but one area, Lanarkshire.
The main reason for admissions was self-harming or suicidal thoughts, as in the previous year.
The commission praised the drop in under-18s being admitted to non-specialised wards and credited it to stability in staffing and increased bed capacity in Scotland's three specialist in-patient units for adolescents as well as improved admissions and discharge procedures in the units.
An expansion of community-based treatment by Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), particularly intensive treatments, was also said to be behind the admissions decrease.
However, the commission wants hospital managers of regional adolescent units to continue reviewing admissions procedures to establish whether access can be improved for out-of-hours and weekend referrals.
It is also calling on the Scottish Government and health boards to review the availability of specialised intensive psychiatric care unit beds for under-18s in Scotland, as there currently are none.
Dr Gary Morrison, executive director (medical) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: "Children and young people under the age of 18 who need hospital treatment for mental illness should, wherever possible, be treated in a specialist unit, designed to care for their age group.
"We have raised concerns in the past when we saw the numbers going to non-specialist, usually adult wards, rising, and last year we were glad to see a reversal of that trend.
"This year we saw a further drop in those figures, with lower admissions in every health board area in Scotland, and marked reductions in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Tayside, Ayrshire and Arran, and Grampian.
"We know that services have been working hard across the country to achieve this change and we welcome it."
A spokesman for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition also welcomed the drop but said there are "still too many children and young people under the age of 18 who need hospital treatment for mental illness who are not being treated in a specialist unit that is designed to care for their age group".
He highlighted a lack of specialist hospital beds north of Dundee for under-18s with mental health problems and called for greater provision.
Mental Health Minister Maureen Watt welcomed the report but said there was still more work to do.
She said: "As the report confirms, this reduction reflects the Scottish Government's work to invest in and improve CAMHS across Scotland. That work is especially important as more young people are coming forward to seek help as the stigma surrounding mental health declines."