Bennett inquiry slams ‘years old’ racism in mental health services

Mental health services are still failing ethnic minorities, the
independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett has concluded.

Institutional racism has been present in mental health services for
many years, the inquiry finds. It recommends that all staff working
in mental health services should receive cultural awareness

“At present people from the black and minority ethnic communities,
who are involved in the mental health services, are not getting the
service they are entitled to. Putting it bluntly, this is a
disgrace. Final responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the
Department of Health,” it says.

The inquiry makes 22 recommendations, which include ministers
acknowledging institutional racism and appointing a national
director for mental health and ethnicity.

The mental health workforce should be ethnically diverse and steps
should be taken to recruit staff from ethnic minorities.

All mental health services should have a written policy on racist
abuse and a national system of training in restraint and control
should be established. “Under no circumstances” should a patient be
restrained in a prone position for longer than three minutes –
Bennett had been restrained for about 25.

A DoH spokesperson said it was “absolutely committed” to
eliminating racism and discrimination in health and social care.

However, the inquiry has reservations about the DoH’s ability to
change. “In view of the history we reserve judgement about whether
these good intentions will be translated into action.”

Bennett, a 38-year-old African Caribbean diagnosed with
schizophrenia, died after being restrained by staff at the Norvic
Clinic, a medium secure unit in Norwich.

The inquiry defined institutional racism as “the collective failure
of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional
service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic

Bennett’s sister, Joanna, said racism in the NHS was nothing new.
“We’ve had several policies, debates and discussions but they
haven’t led to significant changes.”

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