Black patients having their first appointment with a psychiatrist should be accompanied by an advocate, the government is urging.
A new Department of Health guide outlines how it believes service providers can meet the requirements of a race equality action plan aiming to eliminate the discrimination of black and ethnic minority people within NHS mental health services
The guide states: “For patients from African-Caribbean communities, fear of services can be particularly acute.
“Having an advocate (with expertise in translation where necessary) on hand during the first interview can help to settle and ease a patient into care.”
Mental health minister Rosie Winterton has said there is “no excuse for inaction” for service providers who do not meet their duty to end discrimination.
In 2005, a five year action plan, entitled Delivering Race Equality In Mental Health Care, detailed how the government plans to root out anti-discriminatory practice in mental health.
The guide, entitled Positive Steps – Supporting Race Equality in Mental Health Care, lists numerous examples of existing good practice.
However, the Commission for Racial Equality announced last month that it has launched an investigation into whether the government’s planned new mental health law might break race law.
Critics say a mental health bill, due to be introduced before the House of Commons after Easter, will fail to address discrimination, including the disproportionate rate that black people are being compulsory detained.