Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care (DRE) is a five-year action plan set up in 2005 with the aim of working towards service improvements for minority ethnic communities, and to try to bring about better outcomes once they have been through mental health services.
Director of DRE Melba Wilson says: “There are issues of misdiagnosis, experiencing the heavier end of mental health care and treatment, such as locked wards, being sectioned and coming in through the criminal justice system as opposed to primary care as well as the more frequent use of stronger doses of medication, seclusion, and control and restraint.
“This reached a crescendo around the time that the independent inquiry into David Bennett reported [Bennett was an African-Caribbean patient who died in1998 in a medium secure psychiatric unit after being restrained by staff]. The government responded positively to that with the DRE programme.”
The key vehicle for achieving the aims lie with 18 focused implementation sites around the country – “test beds for innovation where clinicians work with people in the community to come up with better ways of improving services”, as Wilson puts it.
One is in Bradford, where the care trust has set up the In-Reach project with the ethnic minority voluntary sector community to improve in-patients’ experiences and outcomes in two hospitals by working on culturally appropriate packages of care to help reduce fear among patients and improve satisfaction rates among patients from ethnic minorities.
There are also 80 community engagement projects, of which Epic (see main text) is one. Others include users being involved in training mental health professionals on cultural competency in the West Midlands community radio being used to raise awareness in Hampshire and a Happy Soul festival in south west London where users can showcase their talents and improve confidence. There are also 20 clinical trailblazers aimed at influencing how clinicians work with ethnic minorities.
All this work underpins three aims: to engage with communities to provide better information and as a result, to support development of more appropriate and responsive services.