Health Minister Ivan Lewis announced yesterday that the government is investing an extra £31 million to boost the amount of beds and facilities offered by Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The primary aim of the investment is to eradicate the “inappropriate use” of adult psychiatric wards for children, and, to this end, the money will be shared between 17 different projects working towards this aim.

The move falls under the government’s promise last year that, by 2008, no child under 16 would be treated on an adult psychiatric ward, and the funds will help the projects deliver new beds, a dedicated interview room, community-based support services and the purchase of necessary equipment.

The Department of Health cites Pennine Care NHS Trust in the North West as one example of how the investment will be used. The Trust has been assigned £2.3 million with which it plans to fund a 16-bed specialist adolescent inpatient unit that will allow under-18s to receive therapy in an “appropriate” environment.

“Vulnerable children deserve age appropriate services that recognise, irrespective of their condition, that they are first and foremost children,” Lewis stressed. And John Archer, Chief Executive of the Pennine Trust, said recent reports had highlighted how unsuitable general adults psychiatric wards are for children and adolescents, and expressed his delight at now being able to provide “expert care to young people in an appropriate environment”.

Cases growing
The increased investment is particularly timely given that the prevalence of mental illness in this age group is on the rise. According to the DH, the total CAMHS caseload rocketed over 30% between 2003 and 2005 to 112,894.

Barbara Herts, chief executive of Young Minds, has welcomed the move. She believes the money “will ensure better availability of mental health services to all children and young people no matter where they live in England, ensuring that children and young people are no longer inappropriately treated in adult wards.”