FRESH concerns over psychiatric care for minors have been raised after a suicidal girl was left sitting for hours in a waiting room over Christmas as her GP attempted to secure help.

The teenager had expressed suicidal tendencies to family and friends but when efforts were made to bring her to St Ita's Hospital in Portrane, north Co Dublin – the facility within her catchment area – she was turned away.

The situation arose out of a new policy introduced last December that prevents children under the age of 17 being admitted to adult units. That age limit will be raised again to 18 next December.

Critics have said that cases such as this can lead to confusion and to difficulties in finding alternative care facilities, as was the case over Christmas.

Sources said the girl in question was taken to a local doctor and had to wait for a number of hours with concerned family in a waiting room as alternative arrangements were sought.

Suitable care was eventually found but the situation has sparked concern that access to psychiatric facilities is not as straightforward as it should be for those in serious need of care.

A source said: "It was the fact that you had a young person who was aware that it was taking a long time to find somewhere for her. It was like the system wasn't working for that person and she was low enough already."

The Health Service Executive (HSE) does not comment on individual cases but it did say that in line with Mental Health Commission regulations, youths are allowed admission to adult facilities in "exceptional circumstances".

"[This is] usually for a limited period of time, for example, over a weekend and where an appropriate care plan and placement is arranged for them as soon as possible," a spokesman said.