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13 December 2018, 08:27 | Updated: 13 December 2018, 08:32
The number of mentally-ill children treated in non-specialist wards in Scotland has risen, latest figures show.
The lack of psychiatric care facilities in Scotland has been blamed after almost 100 incidents of children and young people being admitted to non-specialist adult wards, some containing criminals.
A report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland shows there were 98 admissions to intensive care psychiatric units (ICPUs) designed for adults, while another five were into general paediatric wards.
After two years of falling, these figures - involving 90 children - show an increase from the 71 admissions involving 66 young people in the previous year.
Commenting on the "disappointing" increase, Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission, said: "We believe the rise may reflect capacity issues within the mental health system as a whole.
"We are also very concerned about the continued lack of intensive psychiatric care facilities in Scotland for children and young people, something we have raised for several years.
"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.
"We continue to discuss the need for an IPCU facility for children and young people with government, and are asking that it becomes part of the Mental Health Strategy."
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We welcome this annual report from the Mental Welfare Commission, which will help us in our work to redesign and improve services for children and young people.
"We agree with the report's recommendations to improve bed-use efficiency and the provision of intensive psychiatric care.
"This will be delivered as part of actions of the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 and the Child and Young Person's
Mental Health Taskforce.
"A new national secure child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient facility will be built by NHS Ayrshire and Arran with an intended opening date of late 2020."
Scottish health boards have a legal duty to provide age-appropriate services and accommodation.
The country has just three specialist units for inpatient treatment for children and young people, however, Skye House in Glasgow covering the west of Scotland, the Young People's Unit in Edinburgh for the east, and Dudhope House in Dundee, which takes patients from the north of Scotland.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Children's Services Coalition, which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable young people, said: "Despite a greatly increased demand on mental health services, there are currently only 48 specialist hospital beds provided by the NHS in Scotland for adolescents with mental health problems.
"Given admissions to non-specialist mental health wards, it is clearly arguable whether appropriate services are being provided.
"There are a number of differences between specialist units and wards designed to treat the needs of adults with serious mental illness, both in terms of staff training, experience and the overall ward environment.
"The Scottish Government needs refocus its efforts on prevention and early intervention, ensuring that issues do not escalate so that they require the provision of these specialist services, but we also need to ensure that we have adequate specialist bed numbers that can deal with the requirements should the need arise."
The news comes days after NHS figures revealed 221 young Scots have been waiting more than a year for specialist help with mental health problems and that there were 197 cases where children with such conditions were treated on adult wards in 2017-18.
They were released at the same time as official data showing just four out of
14 health boards in Scotland met the target of having 90% of youngsters accepted by Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) start treatment in 18 weeks.