Up to 100 children from North Wales had to be sent out of the region for mental health treatment between 2014 and 2018.
Figures released by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to the Local Democracy Service show that during that time 46 children under the age of 17 were sent out of North Wales for general mental health treatment and another 36 had to go for specialist treatment.
Campaigners have said there numbers show there is a shortage of facilities in North Wales to treat young people with mental illnesses.
Glenn Page, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind Cymru, said: “When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, staying in hospital may be the best way to keep them safe and make sure they get the help and support they need.
However, there is significant shortage of inpatient mental health beds across Wales for both children and adults.
“A lack of available beds means that people cannot always get the treatment that is best for them or can face having to travel hundreds of miles from home, their families and support networks, to get the help they need. This can be especially difficult for children and young people.
“A mental-health crisis is an emergency just like a physical health emergency, and no-one should be expected to put up with a second rate service for either.”
For patients seeking general care the numbers peaked at 15 in 2016 but dropped down to six for 2018.
Health campaigner and Llandrillo/Cynwyd county councillor, Mabon ap Gwynfor, said: “Anybody suffering mental ill-health needs the best care possible.
However part of that for most is for the patient to be close to their networks of family and friends.
For many, that’s not possible if you’re from North Wales, because of a lack of bed spaces and capacity.
Once again we’re hearing that there’s a lack of capacity in North Wales, and it’s starting to get annoying.
There always seems to be a lack of capacity when it comes to the needs of the people of North Wales.”
The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee commissions specialist care.
A spokeswoman for the committee said: “In 2018/19 there were six children who were transferred out of area due to capacity issues in the North Wales service related to workforce recruitment challenges which are common to many units across the UK.
“There are other children who have requirements for very specialist input or secure accommodation who were also transferred out of Wales.
This is because we want these children to be looked after in the most appropriate location which can meet their needs.
The specialist nature of these needs means that services are delivered from only few centres across the UK.
“It is also important to note that when we place patients outside Wales this is managed through a formal framework arrangement which means we take into account quality, location and the cost of the provider.
This means that for patients in North Wales a provider in England may well offer care closer to home than one in South Wales.”
During this time children were sent as far away as Southampton, Norwich and Maidenhead for some of the treatment.
The main reason given for children having to be sent out of North Wales for general treatment was a lack of bed capacity.
A spokesman for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “Because of high demand, there are occasions when young people experiencing mental health problems are admitted to inpatient units outside of North Wales.
This situation has improved significantly in recent years, with only six young people placed out of area in 2018 and none to date in 2019.
We have also reduced the length of time young people spend receiving out of area care, enabling them to return to North Wales sooner so they can continue their recovery closer to home.”
By Shane Brennan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).