Scale of child drug abuse revealed as one youngster per week is admitted to Walsall Manor Hospital

More than one child a week is admitted to Walsall Manor Hospital due to drug abuse, it has emerged.

Patients younger than 13 are being treated and figures released by hospital bosses show the problems are getting worse.

Hospital bosses have also stated there has been a notable rise of children self-harming by overdosing on prescribed drugs found in households rather than recreational drugs. 

Conservative Councillor Rose Martin, formally responsible for health and wellbeing in the borough, warned the issue could lead to a death and said the priority was to find out where the drugs were coming from. 

She said: “It is absolutely appalling if young children under the age of 16 are getting hold of these drugs.

“It surprises me if any child gets them, let alone so many and those as young as 12. 

“We should be pulling out all of the stops to find out where they are getting them from. We need to be speaking to parents and teachers to find out before a fatality happens, because that would be a disaster for any family.

"The council has got a responsibility but primarily it should be the police, Public Health and the head of education."

In just nine months leading up to September last year 67 children under the age of 16 were diagnosed with ‘poisoning by drugs, medicaments and biological substances’ – 13 of them were aged 12 or younger. 

Out of those, four cases related to anti-depressants and two cases involved psychoactive drug ecstasy.

The numbers are on course to mark the fifth increase in a row as there were 45 child admissions in 2012, 48 in 2013, 65 in 2014 and 80 in 2015. 

In the same nine-month period 22 under 18s were diagnosed with drug-related mental disorders. There were 33 in 2012, 35 in 2013, 21 in 2014 and 19 in 2015. 

Caroline Whyte, divisional director of nursing for children, young people and neonates at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We have seen an increase in children and young people who have self-harmed and part of this self-harming can be overdoses with drugs therefore requiring hospital admission. 

"This is often with easily accessible household medication and not necessarily recreational drugs.

"All of these patients are admitted to the paediatric ward and we work with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, run by Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust and social care so that full mental health and safeguarding assessments can be carried out.

"There is often demand and difficulties on beds and resources, especially in the busier winter time and also the behaviour of these children and young people can be challenging.

"We have taken steps to address this by employing dedicated staff to provide one to one supervision to high risk young people, improvements to keep the environment safe and invested in mental health training for our nursing team."

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