A five-year race equality action plan has made little impact on the disproportionate number of black people admitted to mental hospitals and subjected to compulsory treatment, an official survey has shown.
Five-year plan fails to help black people in mental health system
A five-year race equality action plan has made little impact on the disproportionate number of black people admitted to mental hospitals and subjected to compulsory treatment, an official survey has shown. Black and mixed-race people remain far more likely than average to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals, to be detained under the Mental Health Act, and to be confined in seclusion, according to the survey. The picture has ‘not altered materially’ since 2005. The findings will dismay campaigners who had hoped that the action plan, Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health, would bring a step-change in the treatment of people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the mental health system.
The issue of disproportionate and sometimes deficient care of black people in the mental health system was highlighted by the death of David ‘Rocky’ Bennett in a medium-secure unit in Norwich in 1998 after being held down on the floor for 28 minutes by at least four members of the nursing staff. The subsequent inquiry made 22 recommendations, including one calling for acknowledgement of ‘the presence of institutional racism’ in mental health services. The then Labour Government declined to do so.
Alongside the action plan, launched in response to the Bennett case, the Department of Health ordered an annual census of patients to monitor progress. The new survey is the sixth and last such census organised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) across 261 mental healthcare providers in both the NHS and independent sectors across England and Wales, covering almost 33,000 patients. The exercise, carried out last year, found that people from BME backgrounds comprised 23 per cent of all patients either in hospital or subject to community treatment orders. Rates of compulsory detention were between 25 and 38 percentage points higher for BME groups than for white British people, while use of seclusion was anything up to 99 percentage points higher.
Paul Burstow, care services minister, admitted: ‘Not enough progress has been made to address the over-representation of black and ethnic minorities in our mental health system. This is a legacy that must act as a spur to redouble our efforts to tackle inequalities in mental health.’