DOZENS of children with mental health problems are having to be treated as far away as Kent, due to beds being unavailable within Lancashire.

There were 54 children sent outside the county for inpatient treatment in 2012-13, with another 37 so far this financial year. This represents more than a third of admissions for under 18s.

The figures included individual cases being sent to Birmingham, Maidenhead, Edinburgh and Woking.

Most remained in the North West, however, with about 30 going to facilities in Bury and Cheadle.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of under 18s have been treated on adult psychiatric wards, which NHS England has described as ‘totally unacceptable in the majority of cases’.

There were 11 young people treated on adult wards in 2011/12, which rose to 18 in 2012/13, and 22 so far this year.

This mirrors a national trend which has brought criticism from mental health charities.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane, said: “This is another symptom of the crisis in the mental health system and is the predictable result of both the acute shortage of beds for all ages and the cuts to local community services.” A spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “Due to the clinical presentation of individuals, sometimes a specialist age appropriate placement is required which may not always be available in Lancashire.

“If this is the case, the trust will always try to locate a bed as close to family as possible.

“Staff from the trust liaise closely with the family and the individual to ensure suitability, taking into consideration proximity to family members and the placement being best able to meet the clinical needs of the young person.

“In some cases, a bed cannot always be found immediately so interim arrangements must be made until one becomes available.

“This can sometimes be an admission for a short period of time onto our adult wards. This is only done in exceptional circumstances following a robust clinical assessment of the individual and potential environment and in close consultation with the family.”