NEW figures have shown an increase in the number of mentally-ill children treated in non-specialist or adult wards in Scotland, with some of the latter containing criminals. A lack of psychiatric care facilities has been blamed after almost 100 instances of children and young people being admitted to non-specialist care.

A report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland shows there were 98 admissions to intensive care psychiatric units (ICPUs) designed for adults, and another five were into general paediatric wards. After two years of falling, the 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. Adult intensive care psychiatric units 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.

“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 spokesman 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.”

A spokesman for campaign group the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition 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.”