Ethnic minority mental health in-patient numbers ‘unacceptable’

Campaigners have branded the continuing over-representation of ethnic minorities in inpatient mental health services as “disappointing” and “unacceptable”, after a Care Quality Commission survey today revealed no signs of it reducing.

The census found that 22% of the 30,500 people receiving in-patient care in England and Wales were from ethnic minority groups, as of 31 March this year.

Mind said it was “unacceptable” that BME groups were “grossly-represented” five years after the introduction of the Count Me In census, which provides an ethnic breakdown of inpatient services in England and Wales.

This is despite the government’s 2005 Delivering Race Equality (DRE) action plan to reduce racial inequalities in the mental health system by 2010.

The Mental Health Foundation said it was “disappointing” that the picture remained the same year-after-year despite official recognition of the problem.

In-patient admission rates were over three times higher than average among mixed race white/black Caribbean, mixed white/black African, black Caribbean and black African groups.

Rates were nine times higher than average in the “other Black” group.

The disproportionately high rates of detention under the Mental Health Act for these groups also continued.


Among seven recommendations, the report said statutory bodies should commission and deliver fair, personalised and effective services that reduced mental ill-health among ethnic minority groups, and improved care pathways for those who became mentally unwell.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: “The big picture shows a fundamental failure to deal with problems.”

He added: “We hear promises, and hints of commitments, but then year-on-year nothing changes. There can be no excuse for this lack of progress.”

Head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation Simon Lawton-Smith said mental health services had to provide better community and early intervention services for BME groups.

There also had to be a better understanding of how and why individuals from black and white/black mixed communities ended up in hospital in the first place.

Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, which represents mental health trusts, said progress had been made but more work still needed to be done with BME communities to work out why so many were entering the system.

Care services minister Phil Hope accepted more had to be done but said the DRE plan had helped to deliver progress and has built a firm foundation for New Horizons – the government’s new mental health vision.

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Special Report: black people over represented in mental health system

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