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Mentally unwell children put through ‘torture’ on wrong NHS wards, watchdog warns

Children with mental health illnesses are forced to stay in wards not fit to care for them with patients warning these hospital stays are like a “form of torture”, an NHS safety watchdog has found.

Children with mental health conditions were admitted to general hospital wards, not intended for mental health care, nearly 44,000 times in 2021 and 2022, the Health Services Safety Investigation Body has warned.

These wards which are “noisy, busy and brightly lit” are not often appropriate for these children who require mental healthcare and are unable to keep them safe, HSSIB said in a report on Thursday.

The watchdog is calling for new guidance for hospitals on how to adapt their general paediatric wards for children who have mental health support needs.

In a new investigation, the watchdog said it found in some hospitals patients were placed in rooms with “little or no consideration of therapeutic elements” which are “stripped of everything” including window blinds and shower curtains. In one hospital, staff said even the mattresses are removed.

Between 2021 and 2022 11.7 per cent, or 39,926 admissions to paediatric wards, for physical health, were for children who had a mental health condition.

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Read HSSIB investigation report – Keeping children and young people with mental health needs safe: the design of the paediatric ward (23 May 2024)

Source: The Independent, 23 May 2024


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