• Child and adolescent psychiatry;
  • mental health;
  • legislation;
  • Children Act;
  • Mental Health Act

Background: This project surveyed the use of the Children Act and the Mental Health Act in in-patient child and adolescent mental health services in England and Wales.

Methods: Data were collected as a day census from child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient units, questionnaire forms completed by consultant psychiatrists or key-workers. Returns were received from 71 of the 80 units.

Results: One hundred and twenty-seven of the 663 patients had been admitted formally, the great majority under a section of the Mental Health Act. Compared with those admitted informally, those admitted formally were older, contained a higher proportion of males and had ‘adult-type diagnoses’, mainly schizophrenia, mood disorders and personality disorder. The clinical and psychosocial characteristics of formal and informal patients were consistent with these differences.

Conclusions: This study provides a timely and useful snapshot of the use of the Acts in this population.