A shortage of secure psychiatric beds and an increase in referrals mean psychiatric services in Scotland have reached crisis point, according to the annual report of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. It says the State Hospital at Carstairs, which provides high-security beds for Scotland and Northern Ireland, will become 'unavailable to patients' if extra capacity is not found elsewhere in Scotland. In June this year the hospital informed the commission that it had 263 patients in 259 beds, with 'no realistic short-term capacity to expand'. The commission says the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive must attach the 'highest priority' to developing local facilities to ease the pressure on the State Hospital.

The 1998-99 Annual Report of the Scottish Mental Welfare Commission . 0131-222 6111. Free.