The department of health has been accused of watering down a
critical report into the state of mental health services for people
from black and ethnic minorities, writes Katie
Consultant psychiatrist Sashi Sashidharan, who wrote the report
‘Inside Outside’, said that the doh tried at every opportunity to
minimise the significance of what was being explained in the
“They tried to dilute it down as much as they could. We
had to fight all the way,” he said.
Sashidharan, who is medical director of Birmingham and Solihull
Mental Health NHS Trust, said that the words “strategy”
and “target” were removed from the document, and that
he had to fight to keep the word “racism” included.
The doh was not interested in getting the document out “in
a way that was hard hitting”, he said, claiming that after
the document had been published the government failed to circulate
In his view, the government departments concerned suffer from
“institutional barriers steeped in institutional
“The experience of working with the doh around this
document and subsequently has reinforced my view that this is
institutionally racist attitudes and behaviours on their
part,” he said.
But mental health tsar Louis Appleby denied that the document
had been watered down.
“There’s no point in producing a document and saying
this is a target as it’s not a target unless it has official
status in the system,” he said, pointing out that changes
were best achieved through star ratings and Commission for Health
He added that whether the document was called a strategy or not
was “purely a semantic issue” as long as the right
things happened in practice.
“The plan is to make some changes to the system and it
doesn’t really matter what we call it,” he said.