Government’s response to David Bennett’s inquiry criricised by campaigners

Campaigners have criticised the lack of clear targets in a
government action plan on improving mental health services for
black and minority ethnic people by 2010, published to coincide
with the government’s response to the David Bennett inquiry,
writes Sally Gillen.

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health chief executive Angela
Greatley said the plan, which was launched today by health minister
Rosie Winterton, was “strong in principle but vague in


Measures in the plan include a reduction in the rate of
admissions of people from black and minority ethnic communities
– detention rates for black men are currently six times
higher than the national average – and the prevention of
deaths following intervention.  

But joint manager of the SCMH’s Circles of Fear project,
Errol Francis, said: “Reducing the excessive rates of
compulsory admissions, of violent incidents and the use of
seclusion are all important objectives. Yet the government does not
specify how far these should be reduced, or how services are going
to be assessed on achieving them.”

Launching the government’s response and blueprint for
reform, Winterton said: “Racism, discrimination or
inequalities have no place in the modern NHS. David Bennett’s
death stands as a tragic reminder of what can happen if the service
fails to meet the needs of its black and minority ethnic

Yet mental health charity Rethink has accused the government of
“ducking” two key recommendations of the inquiry into
the death of David Bennett in its long-delayed response published
this week.

Chief executive Cliff Prior said the government had failed to
recognise that the NHS was institutionally racist or set a maximum
time for which it is safe to hold people in restraint, both of
which were recommended in the Bennett report published in February
2004. Bennett died in 1998 after being restrained face-down for 25

“The present treatment of black and minority ethnic groups
in mental health is an outrageous scandal that has been known about
for decades and should have been tackled years ago,” Prior

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