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
    detail”.

     

    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
    patients.”

    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
    minutes.

    “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
    concluded.
                                                                                                                                                              

    Delivering race equality from www.dh.gov.uk/publications

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