Government mental health strategy out of touch with black communities

Government mental health strategy out of touch with black communities

The Government’s New Horizons programme which replaces the ten year National Service Framework, needs to incorporate a dedicated strategy to address ethnic inequalities. Health experts point to the growing numbers of black people who continue to be detained in medium and high secure psychiatric units against their will.

These comments come as mental health Tsar Louis Appleby launched the New Horizons strategy , which sets out the vision for mental health and wellbeing for next ten years.

While welcoming the government moves to roll out a cross government action programme with the aim of improving people’s quality of life and wellbeing, experts in the community say that this new strategy should be in touch with the black communities need. They warn that the over representation of black people on locked wards has led to a crisis that should not be ignored.

The David Bennett Inquiry report into the death of an African Caribbean while in psychiatric care put the media spotlight on the discrimination faced by black patients who use mental health services. A government response to this report made a commitment to see a reduction in the detention rates under the mental health act of people from these communities. However findings from the latest Count Me In Census shows that detention rates of black people under the mental health act are at an all time high. A recent report by the Care Quality Commission also revealed squalid conditions and overcrowding on locked wards.

‘There is not one black family in the UK whose lives have not been touched by this issue. Currently one third of acute wards in London have more patients than beds. Being force to stay in a locked ward without the guarantee of a bed to sleep in cannot be good for anyone’s mental health. These are the issues that need to be addressed in this new strategy,’ Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

‘Having a new strategy that does not have a dedicated focus on ethnic inequalities is not right. If you walk into any secure hospital in the country all you’ll see are black people. The survey in inpatient care shows how appalling the services are,’ consultant psychiatrist and panel member on the David Bennett Inquiry, professor Sashi Sashidarand said.

‘This government needs to make a serious commitment to addressing discrimination within mental health services. They need to be brave enough to look at where it things haven’t worked and admit that statutory services aren’t meeting patients needs. This doesn’t just affect black people but they are the ones who feel the brunt of it. When services start working for this group then they will improve for everybody else,’ Alicia Spence, director of services at ACCI (African Caribbean Community Initiative).

‘What we should be seeing is support given to agencies that have a proven track record of keeping people well and out of hospital. The census reports show that detention rates of black patients has continued to go up. We are finding that black service users are still struggling to get anyone to listen to their concerns, addressing these failures should be made a priority with this new strategy,’ executive the Two Way Street community health services in Bristol said.

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