Report suggests mental health ‘inequality’

New figures from an independent NHS watchdog suggest that some black and minority ethnic groups are three times more likely to be admitted to hospital because of mental illness.

The Healthcare Commission, which carried out the Count Me In 2007 Census , said agencies must work together to prevent and better manage mental illness in black and minority ethnic (BME) groups.

Census figures also found that two-thirds of mental health inpatients are on mixed sex wards.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “We would like a dialogue with local agencies and with mental health and learning disability organisations that have high numbers of BME patients.

“With their knowledge, we can begin to look at the problems within the communities and bring together local agencies to tackle issues that cause some BME groups to have higher rates of mental illness.”

Census figures revealed that 22% of people on mental health wards were from minority ethnic groups, compared with 21% in 2005 and 20% in 2005.

The Census also found that:

• rates of hospital admission and detention were lower than the national average among the White British, Indian and Chinese groups, and were average for the Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups

• admission and detention rates were higher than average among other minority ethnic groups for both genders – particularly in the Black Caribbean, Black African, Other Black, White/Black Caribbean Mixed and White/Black African Mixed groups – with rates of over three times higher than average, and over 10 times higher in the Other Black group

• in the Black Caribbean, Black African and Other Black groups, rates of referral from GPs and community mental health teams were lower than average, and rates of referral from the criminal justice system were higher than average in the Black Caribbean and Other Black groups

• the total number of inpatients on mental health wards has fallen from 33,785 in 2005 to 31,187 in 2007

• the proportion of inpatients in independent mental health hospitals has increased from 10% in 2005 to 14% in 2007

• 30% of inpatients had been in hospital for one year or longer.

The Count Me In Census 2007 was a joint initiative by the Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) and the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIHME) and is part of the UK Government’s five-year action plan, “Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care”.

Professor Lord Patel of Bradford, Chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission, said: “I am deeply concerned about the continued high levels of admission detention suffered by some black groups, especially the Black Other group – mostly black second and third generation young men.

“There are some very serious questions that need answering about the way these people are being treated.”

• To read the Count Me In 2007 Census, click here