Black and Minority Ethnic leaders call for service reconfiguration and training to end racism in the NHS
Posted Tuesday 9 October 2007
On World Mental Health Day, Black and Minority Ethnic leaders call for service reconfiguration and training to end racism in the NHS
63 per cent see no improvement of cultural understanding in the NHS
Mind polled 49 stakeholders from the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network on the state of mental health services for BME communities today, 9 years on from Rocky Bennett's death . 63 per cent felt that the NHS was no more responsive to the needs of black and minority ethnic patients than 10 years ago. As World Mental Health Day focuses on culture and diversity, mental health services must become culturally sensitive to the needs of BME communities.
BME stakeholders say the most important solutions are at hand. Asked to name the three most important characteristics of a culturally appropriate mental health service:
- 58 per cent said health care professionals need greater training and awareness of cultural diversity
- 1 in 4 wanted a greater ethnic mix amongst care staff and senior management
- 1 in 4 said interpreters and foreign language training for staff were required
The DRE  five-year plan to address the disproportionately negative experiences of BME service users has focused on community engagement. But the Network clearly perceives its success to date as limited - 38 per cent felt that people from BME communities did not consult their GP before they reached crisis point due to lack of trust in mental health services and their providers.
Worryingly, 69 per cent felt that the misperception of BME service users as dangerous continues to have an impact on the care they receive. Other concerns were expressed around racial stereotyping from mental health professionals, disparity of care in services and fear of stigma from within the community.
Diverse Mind Manager Marcel Vige said:
"Different communities have different ways of understanding and responding to mental health issues, and often mental health services simply aren't equipped to deal with cultural differences. The problems aren't just an issue of funding - a range of responses are needed. It's important that training equips staff to engage with diverse cultures, but what is sorely needed is fundamental change in how services are commissioned, configured and evaluated. This will only happen if such issues are prioritised at the highest levels within mental health services."
Good local practice does exist; the voluntary sector  has some excellent examples of developing culturally sensitive services. For instance, Hillingdon Mind Asian project provides a range of mental health services for service users, carers, families and friends within the Asian community. The project is staffed by volunteers fluent in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu, and provides culturally appropriate information and advice. Their services include a befriending scheme, a drop-in centre for women with anxiety and depression, and support groups for those with severe and enduring mental health problems.
Notes to editors
 David 'Rocky' Bennett, a young black patient, died on 31st October 1998 after being restrained, face down, by mental health staff at the Norvic Clinic in Norwich.
 Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care (DRE) is a 2005 Department of Health programme designed to tackle racial discrimination in mental health care.
 Local Mind association BME services are available in: Bath, Bradford, Colchester, Croydon, Ealing and Hounslow, Harrow, Milton Keynes, Newport, Norwich, Oxfordshire, Wandsworth.