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Friday, 11 July 2014

NHS to take ‘urgent action' on children’s mental health beds

Written by The Editorial Team

Health officials have said they need to take "urgent action" to improve children's access to mental health services.

Recently concerns have been raised about the services available across England.

Leading doctors have said patients are being shipped to all corners of the country for any available bed, leaving them far away from their friends and families, and medics are being forced to discharge patients as quickly as possible to make more room - putting patients at risk.

Now NHS England has promised to improve access to specialised mental health services for children and young people.

The news follows a new report from the health body which found that while the number of "tier 4" beds for youngsters has increased since 1999, there are "relative shortages" in some areas forcing young patients to be treated a long way away from home.

Alongside the undersupply of beds in some areas, there was also evidence of some patients being "inappropriately admitted" to other units, the authors said.

NHS England said that it will "urgently" increase general beds for children and young people around the country by around 50 beds and recruit a handful of extra staff to ensure children are receiving "appropriate levels of care".

And in the long term it will carry out a review of services available across the country.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England's director for people with long term conditions, said: "Too many children and young people have had to travel some distance from their homes to access specialised inpatient beds.

"We are committed to both addressing the more immediate problems, by increasing capacity, and to improving these services longer-term, together with our national partners. We want to ensure that we can provide sustainable, high quality care as near to patients' homes as possible."

Labour's shadow public health minister Luciana Berger MP said: "Today's report reveals the true extent of the crisis in children and young people's mental health services.

"David Cameron is cutting the funding for mental health services by 20% more than hospital trusts. Now, up and down the country, there's a shortage of mental health beds that forces some of the most vulnerable children and young people to travel hundreds of miles from home to get the care they need."

In June the British Medical Association warned that mental health services are in a "critical" state.

Doctor's at the union's annual conference in Harrogate heard that services are being cut and patients are being put at risk as a result.

Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: "I want to build a fairer society where children get the mental health care they need - but the current system is too fragmented and pressurised.

"To address this, we are taking immediate action by making more beds available and appointing a taskforce to improve commissioning and create more joined-up services for children and young people. I am absolutely determined to get this right so that children everywhere get high-quality care."