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Child deaths expose mental health unit pressures

Deaths, staff shortages and a culture of life-threatening self-harm are exposing deep fears about the quality of mental health care in hospitals for children and young people.

Since 2019, at least 20 patients aged 18 or under have died in NHS or privately-run units, the BBC has found.

A further 26 have died within a year of leaving units, amid claims of a lack of ongoing community support.

The NHS said it had "invested record amounts... to meet record demand".

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) units look after about 4,000 patients with many different diagnoses each year. The aim is to help them recover over a period of weeks or months through specialist care. Some patients are in and out of the units for years.

The BBC has also heard serious claims regarding the unsafe discharge of patients sent home from CAMHS hospitals.

Several former patients told the BBC they had serious self-harm incidents or tried to take their own life within days of returning home.

Parents have described being on "suicide watch" 24 hours a day, to ensure their child's safety.

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Source: BBC News, 9 August 2022


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