Mental Health Tsar Resigns Over ‘Scandal’ Of Black Patients

The academic who designed the Government’s race equality policy on mental health has resigned over fears that not enough is being done to protect ethnic minorities from mistreatment and discrimination.Lord Patel of Bradford has told ministers he intends to step down as director of the Department of Health’s ethnic minority mental health programme because the “scandal” of the treatment of black patients has not been dealt with.

The independent peer says the situation for ethnic-minority patients is ” completely unacceptable”, and says the Mental Health Bill should have greater “safeguards” to stop black people being mistreated.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, he said a national inquiry was needed into why a disproportionate number of black people were being diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, with serious mental health problems, and why their experience of the mental health system was so poor.

Research shows that black men tend to be given higher doses of medication than whites and are five times more likely to be detained on locked wards. Black people and people of mixed race are at least three times more likely to be admitted to hospital for mental health disorders than whites. They are also far more likely to be referred to mental health services by the police, courts or social services ­ and be diagnosed as psychotic and restrained or secluded in hospital.

Lord Patel’s resignation will come as a blow to the Government. The peer, who has been in the post for three years, framed policy on tackling race inequalities and is highly regarded in government.

But Lord Patel said he was dismayed at the disproportionate use of control and seclusion orders and said the Government had yet to answer on why so many ethnic minorities were being detained. “I think there is a situation that is completely unacceptable. It’s the last remaining care scandal. This is a major scandal,” he said.

His resignation follows concerns that the Government has failed to properly conduct an assessment of the impact on race of its Mental Health Bill.

A census of mental health provision to be published in the coming weeks is expected to show that a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities are being detained. The academic, who is head of the Centre for Ethnicity and Health at the University of Central Lancashire, said he resigned to enable him to speak out against discrimination. Lord Patel, who is also chair-man of the Mental Health Commission, believes protections for ethnic minorities ­ and a duty to monitor the impact of the legislation on ethnic minorities ­ should be written into the Mental Health Bill before Parliament.

“Surely any government would want to know why this is happening,” Lord Patel said. “We need a committee of inquiry. The census shows they are 50 per cent more likely to receive restraint or seclusion. Nearly 30 per cent of the population in high-security psychiatric care are black. We have an obligation to ensure that any future legislation must mitigate this situation. We should be putting race equality principles on the face of the Bill,” he said.

Race discrimination in the mental health services was highlighted by the case of David “Rocky” Bennett, pictured above, who died of asphyxia in 1998 after being restrained for almost half an hour by five members of staff while in a secure mental health unit. The 38-year-old former musician had had an altercation with a fellow patient.

An inquest in 2001 ruled that his death, at a Norvic secure unit in Norwich, had been aggravated by neglect. Mr Bennett became angry that he, not the white patient, was being moved off the ward. His family were not told about his death until two days later.

* Around 52 killings a year are perpetrated by the mentally ill, the vast majority against family, carers and friends, according to a report published this week.