Bennett case typical of way NHS treats black people, inquiry told

The treatment that David Bennett received from the NHS was typical
of the poor care received by black people, the solicitor
representing the Bennett family has told the independent inquiry
into his care.

In his closing remarks at the end of part two of the inquiry, Sadiq
Khan said that the way Bennett was dealt with when he first went to
a GP to obtain help “epitomises the way black families are treated
and continue to be treated by the NHS”.

Bennett, 38, an African Caribbean man, died in October 1998 after
being restrained by staff in the Norvic Clinic, a medium secure
psychiatric unit in Norwich (news, page 14, 5 June).

Khan said that while the “end result” of Bennett’s treatment may
have been exceptional, his treatment was not.

He called on the panel “to conclude unequivocally that there is
institutional racism in the NHS”, saying that the evidence
submitted demonstrated the “culture of inadequacy, incompetence,
neglect and racism in the NHS”.

“There is a stark difference in the experience that a young black
man has in the NHS to that of a middle-aged, middle-class white man
with the same symptoms and conditions,” he said.

Khan said that the practice of restraining patients face down
should be stopped, and that national standards on the use of
control and restraint are needed. In the meantime, the Department
of Health should issue interim guidance on restraint and

The NHS should also collect and publish information about the
deaths of all patients in psychiatric care, and all relevant staff
should have first aid training, particularly in cardiopulmonary

Earlier, Antony Sheehan, head of mental health at the DoH and chief
executive of the National Institute for Mental Health in England,
said it would not be until autumn 2004 that a unit such as the
Norvic Clinic would have implemented the necessary policies to deal
with a similar situation to Bennett’s.

Sheehan pledged his personal and DoH commitment to improving
services for people from ethnic minorities.

He said the establishment of an independent body, similar in
standing to the National Institute for Mental Health in England but
managed only by black people, would be “a wonderful development”.

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