Concerns at 'risk' over young people's mental health services

Depressed girl (genetic) The report said that unsafe discharge practices remained

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Children and young people who access mental health services in Wales continue to be put at risk, according to a new review.

Some children were still being inappropriately admitted to adult mental health wards, the report said.

A mental health charity said it was disappointed frontline services still fell far short of acceptable standards.

The Welsh government said it would prioritise mental health services in its next meeting with NHS groups.

The joint review - by Health Inspectorate Wales and the Wales Audit Office - looked at action taken by the Welsh government and health boards in response to safety concerns raised in a previous report in 2009.

The report acknowledges some progress has been made in addressing safety issues highlighted but risks remained including:

  • Some children and young people are still being inappropriately admitted to adult mental health wards
  • Health professionals are failing to always share information and act on their safeguarding duties
  • Unsafe discharge practices persist
  • Community services providing intensive support, despite being expanded, are still not be available in all parts of Wales
  • A lack of capacity is resulting in children and young people having to be placed out of the area in which they live to receive treatment

The review concludes that although revised procedures and better training have been put in place to beef up safeguarding and information sharing among health professionals, they have not led to improvements on the ground.

It also makes a number of recommendations for the Welsh government including clarifying when an admission to an adult mental health ward would be appropriate or acceptable.

Improvements made include strengthened training and expanded community support services.

Mental health charity Hafal's chief executive, Bill Walden-Jones, told BBC Wales it was "completely unacceptable for young people with a serious mental illness to be treated on adult wards".

'Accelerate progress'

He added: "While we acknowledge the progress highlighted in the report it is disappointing to see that services on the frontline for children and young people with a serious mental illness still fall far short of an acceptable standard.

"The crucial issue for young people with a serious mental illness is early intervention."

A Welsh government spokesman said Health Minister Mark Drakeford had chaired quarterly meetings with the vice-chairs of NHS organisations to discuss mental health services since he took on the post in March.

The next meeting will take place early in the new year.

Mr Drakeford added: "Today's report will be the first item on the agenda in order to accelerate progress for children and young people."

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