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

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

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

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

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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