Campaigners furious as government ‘ducks’ key Bennett inquiry findings

    A leading mental health charity 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.

    Rethink chief executive Cliff Prior said the government had
    failed to recognise that the NHS was institutionally racist or to
    set a maximum time deemed safe to restrain patients. Bennett died
    in 1998 after being restrained face-down for 25 minutes The report
    of the inquiry was published in February 2004.

    Prior described the treatment of ethnic minorities in mental
    health as “an outrageous scandal that has been known about for
    decades and should have been tackled years ago”.

    Campaigners have also criticised the lack of clear targets in a
    government action plan on improving mental health services for
    ethnic minorities by 2010, published to coincide with the
    response.

    Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for
    Mental Health, said the plan was “strong in principle but vague in
    detail”.

    Measures include a reduction in the rate of admissions of people
    from ethnic minorities – detention rates for black men are six
    times higher than the national average – and the prevention of
    deaths after intervention.
    But Errol Francis, joint manager of the organisation’s Circles of
    Fear project, said: “Reducing the excessive rates of compulsory
    admissions, of violent incidents and the use of seclusion are
    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.”

    Under the plan, primary care and other NHS trusts will be
    expected to provide more responsive services based on the needs of
    the local population. Trusts will also be assessed by the
    Healthcare Commission on their performance in challenging
    discrimination.

    Launching the government’s response and blueprint for reform,
    health minister Rosie Winterton said: “Racism, discrimination or
    inequalities have no place in the modern NHS. Bennett’s death
    stands as a tragic reminder of what can happen if the service fails
    to meet the needs of ethnic minority patients.”

     

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