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Last Updated: Monday, 15 September, 2003, 03:42 GMT 04:42 UK
Black patients 'need own network'
The government is being urged to support the creation of a national mental health network for people from ethnic minority communities.

The idea will be discussed on Monday at a conference in Manchester organised by the Afiya Trust, a charity which aims to reduce inequalities in health care provision.

Trust director Peter Scott Blackman said there was a need to build on the knowledge that already existed about the needs of ethnic minority patients.

"Everyone is reinventing the wheel when what we need is a national co-ordinated black response," he said.

"A national network will provide regional and ethnic areas of expertise and culturally affirmative training".

As well as mental health charities, several leading voluntary and statutory agencies such as the Prison Service and the Directors of Social Services, will also be represented at the two-day conference.

There were occasions when I was held down by nurses and injected or put into isolation
Paul Grey
Former mental illness patient

Among those attending is Professor Sashi Sashidharan, one of the authors of a recent Department of Health report on improving mental health services for ethnic minorities.

He said he now had serious concerns about the government's commitment to implement the report's recommendations.

"This conference might provide the best opportunity for people from ethnic minority communities and concerned mental health professionals to ensure the momentum behind improving the mental health experiences of the ethic minority communities in this country isn't lost."

Conference participants are also calling on the government to support the training of lay members of black communities as a response to the draft Mental Health Bill.

Some of the bill's proposals, such as the introduction of generic treatment orders and the extension of treatment orders to prisons, have caused particular concern amongst mental health groups working with ethnic minority patients.

Research shows that black people are over-represented in the mental health care system, are more likely to be forcibly admitted to hospital under police powers in the Mental Health Act, and are more often kept in secure wards.

Mental health care workers fear the draft bill's proposals could increase the potential for discrimination against black patients.

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Project aims at ethnic minority men
07 Mar 00  |  Scotland

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