Six steps to improve race equality in our mental health services

Written by:
Lester Holloway
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Six changes need to be made to the way Britain's mental health services run if we are to fight racial discrimination and a lack of inclusivity in the services, according to two race equality bodies.

Race on the Agenda (ROTA) and the Race Equality Foundation (REF) are independent Race Equality organisations with health as a specialist area, including mental health service provision. After a wide consultation including a well-attended conference in June, the organisations have made a number of recommendations to the Mental Health Act Review 2018.


The submission welcomed the Interim Report issued by the Review and was glad to see an emphasis on the urgent need to address the disproportionate number of people from black African and Caribbean backgrounds being detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

The six recommendations in the submission were:

  1. The Mental Health Act (the Act) should set out principles that define human rights, anti-discriminatory practice and a commitment to combat institutional racism.
  2. The Act should be amended to include a clause that states explicitly that a diagnosis for a ‘mental disorder’ must take account of the patient’s social and cultural background. And the Act should allow for appeals against diagnoses via a Tribunal, with a panel that includes experts from BAME backgrounds.
  3. Patients detained under the Act should be empowered to choose which carers or family members have a say in their care and can support them during an appeals process.
  4. A new system of appeal whenever a new diagnosis is applied and/or continued, to a tribunal-like body, with the right of the patient concerned to have legal representation at the hearing.
  5. All mental health service providers should be set targets to reduce the use of CTOs and minimize racial inequalities in their use. This should be monitored by the CQC during inspections. Specific amendments in relation to supervised treatment in the community should be made to ensure this is statutory.
  6. Statutory bodies should be regularly inspected by the CQC or, other appropriate body, to ensure that training of professionals working in mental health services addresses issues of racial bias and cultural competence.

Read the full submission HERE.

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