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"Scandalous" lack of secure mental health beds.


A teenager who was a risk to himself, and the public, could not be found a secure mental health bed for a whole month in England, Scotland or Wales, his father claims.

Secure accommodation was sought for Boy Y, from Norfolk, in July 2017 but none was available, even though there are about 1,440 hospital beds for children and young people with mental health problems in the NHS in England alone.

Mr Justice Holman, who ruled on an injunction about  reporting of the case, described the lack of secure beds as "scandalous.”

Boy Y, whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons, suffers mental health problems, and during summer 2016, his father believed he was a "danger to himself and the public.”

In response, Boy Y was sent by Norfolk County Council, which was responsible for his care, hundreds of miles away to a secure unit in Scotland.

He was later moved to a non-secure residential placement in Scotland, even though his father said that, at the time, his psychological health was a matter for concern. The teenager absconded several times.

A recent review of mental health bed provision for children and young people found that the available beds are not evenly spread and some areas had no in-patient beds within a 50-mile radius.

Some of the beds are in specialist units for children with eating disorders, while others are in high-dependency units for young people with complex needs.

A survey of child and adolescent mental health workers, conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2015, found 62 per cent had seen adolescent patients held in inappropriate settings, with 14 per cent saying patients had attempted to kill themselves while waiting for a suitable bed.

The boy’s father said: "The first time he got out, he went to a party with a load of the local hoodlums and ended up taking drugs."

Eleven days later, the local authority decided he should go back to a secure unit but, by then, his bed had gone and his father was told that there were none for adolescents in England, Scotland and Wales.

Norfolk County Council’s children’s services director, Matt Dunkley, said: "The lack of secure and specialist beds for children is a national issue.  We have worked around the clock to find suitable accommodation for this young man and now have a secure, supportive placement arranged that we believe will safely meet his needs."

NHS England said improving young people's mental health was "An absolute priority. Although transformation won't happen overnight, work is well under way to make sure the right care is available at home or as close to home as possible."