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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 11:25 GMT
Pledge to end NHS discrimination
David 'Rocky' Bennett
An inquiry said Mr Bennett's death was 'totally unnecessary'
The government has pledged to "eradicate discrimination" in NHS mental health care after a damning report into a patient's death.

David 'Rocky' Bennett died in 1998 after being restrained at a Norfolk clinic.

The inquiry into his death said there was "institutional racism" in the NHS.

The government's action plan outlines measures aimed at reducing inequalities, but mental health groups called the document "vague".

It should not take violent death to precipitate such change
Helen Shaw, Inquest

Mr Bennett, 38, collapsed after he was held face down for 25 minutes after hitting another patient - who went on to attack and racially abuse him - and punching a female nurse.

Jamaican-born Mr Bennett, from Peterborough, had suffered from mental illness since his early 20s.

The inquiry into his death, led by retired High Court judge Sir John Blofeld, said Mr Bennett's death was "tragic and totally unnecessary".

And it said the failure to give ethnic minority people proper mental health care was a "festering abscess".

Experts estimate black people are three to 10 times more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic and less likely to be diagnosed with depression.

They are also more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act and to be given medication, rather than 'talking' therapies.

Community work

The blueprint published by the government outlines changes to mental health care for black and ethnic minority patients in England to take place over the next five years.

It includes a commitment to reduce the disproportionate rates of compulsory detention of black and ethic minority patients, and to prevent deaths in mental health care following physical intervention.

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE 2004 REPORT
A national system of training in restraint and control should be formed within a year
Mental health workers to be trained in cultural awareness and sensitivity
No patient should be restrained in a prone position for longer than three minutes
Records should be kept of all psychiatric units' use of control and restraint
Ministers should acknowledge and commit to eliminating institutional racism in mental health services
A National Director for Mental Health and Ethnicity should be appointed

The action plan said primary care trusts should ensure the service they provide is suitable for ethnic minority patients in the area.

Around 2m will fund community and voluntary workers to liaise with black and ethnic minority groups.

Health minister Rosie Winterton, said: "Racism, discrimination, or inequalities have no place in modern society, and they certainly have no place in the modern NHS.

"David Bennett's death stands as a tragic reminder of what can happen if the service fails to meet the needs of its black and minority ethnic patients.

"Change might not come overnight, but we are offering a way forward to equity for all in mental health care."

'No accountability'

But Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, said: "We are concerned that much of action plan is strong in principle but vague in detail.

"There are no clear targets to attain. It is not specified how improvements are going to be measured or how NHS trusts will be held accountable for achieving results.

"These important gaps need to be filled to make the plan the success we all want it to be."

And Helen Shaw, co-director of Inquest, which works with families of people who have died in custody and who has been closely involved with Mr Bennett's family, said: "It should not take violent death to precipitate such change and it remains to be seen what will really happen at the point of service delivery."

Cliff Prior, chief executive of the charity Rethink, said: "The government has ducked the two central recommendations of the Bennett inquiry - a recognition that the NHS is institutionally racist and a maximum time that is safe to hold people in restraint."

And Shadow Health Minister Tim Loughton said: "It has taken the government more than six years to give a blindingly obvious response to this tragic and unnecessary death."

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "Better monitoring and more questioning of why so many black and ethnic minority patients with mental health problems are detained is essential."




SEE ALSO:
Public inquiry into clinic death
06 Mar 03 |  England


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