Mental health chief admits NHS is racist

The chief executive of the National Institute for Mental Health
admitted that parts of the NHS are institutionally racist,
writes Katie Leason.

Giving evidence at the independent inquiry into the death of
mental health inpatient David Bennett, NIMHE chief executive
Anthony Sheehan was asked if the NHS was racist, and he said:
“It is true. We should have no tolerance of it.”

Bennett, a 38-year-old Afro-Caribbean patient, died in The
Norvic Clinic, a medium secure psychiatric unit in Norwich, at the
end of October 1998 after being restrained by staff.

When asked what he could do to help tackle racism in mental
health services, Sheehan replied that there would be “a
strong and visible black presence in NIMHE”, with 12 more
appointments being made by the end of the year. Currently only two
out of 28 of the institute’s senior managers are from black and
ethnic minorities.

Consultant psychiatrist Sashi Sashidharan, sitting on the panel,
asked Sheehan how commitment towards improving mental health
services for black and ethnic minorities could really be judged
given that the history of mental health services and the DoH was
“so awfully inadequate”.

 “I do not believe this organisation can tackle all racism
in the NHS, but it will begin to tackle it in mental health,”
replied Sheehan.

Earlier, chairperson of the inquiry Sir John Blofeld, a retired
high court judge, said that the general impression was that there
was “a lot of good will, but that everyone was leaving it to
someone else to say what should be done”.

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