TEENAGERS suffering mental health problems have been admitted to adult psychiatric wards in Swindon and Wiltshire for treatment, it has emerged.

A total of three youngsters under 18 were placed into adult wards in the first nine months of 2013/2014, two more than in 2011/2012, according to figures released through a Freedom of Information Request lodged by Community Care and the BBC.

The figure is relatively low compared to others like central London where 27 children were admitted to adult wards.

A total of 350 in 2013/2014 were wrongly hospitalised in units for over-18s.

No child was admitted to an adult unit in 2012/2013.

The Mental Health Act 2007 places a duty on the NHS to provide “age appropriate” care to patients under 18 years old.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust said all three teenagers were 17 years old and shy of their 18th birthdays.

NHS England’s national clinical director for children, young people and transition into adulthood Dr Jacqueline Cornish admitted that the body was facing bed availability issues in Tier 4 child and adolescent mental health services, where the most seriously ill patients are seen.

Yet AWP denied that the youngsters’ admission to adult wards was due to a bed shortage at adolescent units but explained it was simply what was deemed best for the patients.

“The 17 year olds were within 10 weeks of their 18th birthdays and were in the process of moving from adolescent to adult services,” said an AWP spokesman. “Under statute, a 17-year-old has the right to choose whether they go to an adolescent bed or an adult bed.

“The decisions to admit were taken after careful consideration of their individual best interests and in two cases, taking account of their expressed preference. Appropriate provision was made for safeguarding and support.

“There is on-going work between AWP and Oxford Health, the provider of children’s mental health services, to ensure that patients who are at a transitional age have the best possible care pathway.”

But Ann Mooney, chairman of mental health charity SUNS, said she believed 17 and even 18 year olds were much too young to be placed in adult wards.

“A lot of people say that 17 year olds are gown ups but they are still children,” said Ann, 53, who suffers from mental health problems herself.

“Some of them would be even more frightened in an adult unit.

“It is traumatic enough for someone my age or older to go to an adult ward let alone a 17 year old. The adolescent units are equipped for kids until the age of 18.

“Of course they should be given a choice but I still feel that they should be in adolescent units with people their own age.

“Personally I think 18 is too young and that the age should be increased to 20 for adult wards.”