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10 DEC 2007

Increased inequality in child and adolescent mental health services

A survey published in the December issue of the Psychiatric Bulletin reports that inequality in the provision of child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) services has increased over the last 7 years.

In 1999, CAMH in-patient provision was unevenly distributed across England, largely due to a concentration of units managed by the independent sector in London and the South East of England. A repeat of the 1999 bed count survey was conducted in 2006 to see whether change had occurred in response to government policy.

It was found that between 1999 and 2006 the total number of units in England has risen from 72 to 91, and the number of beds provided from 844 to 1128. However, regions with the highest number of beds in 1999 have increased bed numbers to a greater degree than areas with the lowest number of beds in 1999.

Despite an overall increase in bed numbers, 4 regions of the country are still well below the minimum of 20 beds per million population recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The researchers speculate that this might be partly due to fragmented and local commissioning, and the effects of market forces operating as a result of increasing privatisation.

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