Vulnerable young people were turned away from a new mental health unit in Dundee more than 20 times in a year, the Scottish Government has admitted.
Youngsters with mental health problems were knocked back by the inpatient facility at Dudhope House because of a lack of staff and beds, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have found.
At one point four beds had to be cordoned off so that patient safety was not compromised by staffing shortages.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party’s health spokesman, said it is “astounding” how many vulnerable children have been denied a place at the unit.
“Children are already expected to travel hundreds of miles from Stornoway and Dingwall to a hospital in Dundee for mental health care,” he said.
“Now we find out that the lack of resources at this new unit has caused many to be told to go elsewhere.
“They could be treated even further away from home, privately or in wards that are less suited to their needs.
“This shows the urgent need to invest in CAMHS, train and give staff the support they need, and establish new specialist mental health units north of Dundee.”
The Scottish Government has been under attack over a lack of beds north of Dundee for children with mental health problems.
The Young People’s Unit, which has 12 beds and opened in May last year, has already turned away 21 children, according to the parliamentary answer given by mental health minister Maureen Watt.
A NHS Tayside spokeswoman said the unit did not have enough staff over the winter.
“From time to time, beds may be unavailable at the Dudhope Young People’s Unit either due to the unit being at full capacity, where no beds are available, or high patient dependency, making it clinically unsafe to admit any further patients,” she said.
“Between December and March the Dudhope Young People’s Unit experienced a shortage of staff across a range of professions however these are now appointed and the unit has started to increase the number of beds available.”
Ms Watt said in most cases young people will be treated in communities rather than at a specialist unit like Dudhope.
“On deciding what treatment is appropriate, clinicians and other professionals involved are best placed to discuss all possible options and alternatives,” she said.
“On a small number of occasions where Dudhope has been operating at full capacity, it has been clinically unsafe to admit any further patients.”