Young mental health patients are being put on "inappropriate" hospital wards, research suggests.
Young people are admitted inappropriately
A study shows many are admitted to
adult psychiatric wards and general children's wards when they should be in specialist units.
Incorrect admissions happen in a third of cases, Royal College of Psychiatrists' researchers said.
Campaigners said there was a national shortage of beds for young people with mental health problems.
Specialist wards for adolescents with mental health problems are needed because these young people are not adequately treated on general psychiatric wards, the college's research unit said.
It added that putting these patients on general paediatric wards raised problems of safety and staff skills.
The study of nine health authority regions in England and Wales, published by the British Medical Journal, found 54 patients aged under 18 were on the wrong type of ward.
The researchers estimated that a third of all young people admitted for mental illness are not admitted to a specialist unit.
They said: "If these admissions to general psychiatric and paediatric wards are to continue, then skills need to be developed in units receiving these vulnerable young people.
"If the admissions are to be avoided, further investment in specialist inpatient care, the formulation of alternatives to admission, or both will be needed."
Dinah Morley, acting director of mental health charity Young Minds, said: "The situation across the country is that there are not nearly sufficient beds for young patients.
"However, we need to ensure the numbers are not just expanded for the hell of it."
It was often better to treat people in their own homes where possible, she said.
And she added that simply creating a specialist ward within an adult unit would not solve the problem because the adolescents would still be treated alongside older patients.
"To see someone aged 40 with chronic schizophrenia and be told that is what you have got is absolutely terrifying," she said.