Young persons' access to psychiatric treatment varies from one part of Finland to another
The Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCS) has acted unlawfully and neglected its statutory duty in that a patient suffering from an eating disorder had to wait longer than the maximum period of six months that, under the Treatment Guarantee, adults must wait to be admitted for treatment, Ombudsman Riitta-Leena Paunio finds. She had been investigating a complaint concerning a 20-year-old patient who had to wait seven months to be admitted to the HUCS eating disorders unit.
Arising from another complaint, the Ombudsman had as long ago as autumn 2007 adopted a position on the excessively long wait for admission to the eating disorders unit and issued a reprimand to HUCS for having acted unlawfully. She emphasised on that occasion that the Treatment Guarantee must be implemented also in the sector of special psychiatric care and required HUCS to take measures to correct the unlawful situation.
A further point that the Ombudsman stresses is that it is essential to explicate, as a matter of urgency, the regulations on access to mental health services for young people so that access to these services is ensured on the basis of uniform principles in various parts of Finland. At the moment, young people in different parts of the country enjoy an inequitable status in this respect, because the age limit varies from one hospital district to another. In the worst cases, 18-22-year-olds who are just reaching adulthood are included within the scope of adult psychiatry, and under the Treatment Guarantee must be admitted for treatment within six months. Chief medical officers in hospital districts recommend that persons under 23 should be admitted for special psychiatric treatment within three months irrespective of where they live.
Ombudsman Paunio has informed the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of her opinion that there is a need for explicatory regulations concerning access to mental health services for young people.
Additional information will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Kaija Tanttinen-Laakkonen, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3377.