The King's Fund statement in response to independent inquiry into the death of David Bennett

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The King's Fund today welcomed the Inquiry report into the death of David Bennett and called for a greater role for people from black and ethnic minorities in delivering mental health services and training mental health staff.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'This report must act as a catalyst for radical changes to practice and attitudes. We have known for many years that too many people from black and minority ethnic communities have a poor experience of mental health services. This is a wake-up call for the government and the NHS.'

A number of the Bennett Inquiry recommendations echo those set out in The King's Fund Inquiry into London's mental health services, published in November 2003, in particular the need for better trained mental health staff, improvements to the conditions, staffing levels and skill mix in acute hospital inpatient wards, and the need for an ethnically diverse workforce.

Niall Dickson added:

'Black and minority ethnic communities could play a vital role in informing and delivering services, and training mental health staff in race equality and cultural awareness and sensitivity. We know there are some excellent services out there, run by and for people from these communities, but they are isolated beacons of good practice.

'We need to build the capacity of black and minority ethnic organisations to enable them to have a real voice in decisions about local services, and to be more involved in providing services.'

On the Bennett Inquiry recommendation for a National Director for Mental Health and Ethnicity, The King's Fund senior mental health policy adviser Simon Lawton-Smith said:

'While we agree that race equality and cultural awareness needs to be much higher on the agenda, we would be concerned about confusion arising between the roles of Professor Louis Appleby at the Department of Health, Professor Kamlesh Patel at NIMHE and any new appointment. A bottom-up approach involving really strong local initiatives to improve training and services might be more effective than adding to the ranks of czars.'

Notes to editors

1. London's State of Mind: King's Fund Mental Health Inquiry 2003, by Ros Levenson, Angela Greatley and Janice Robinson, is available from King's Fund publications on 020 7307 2591, price £20 (£10 for voluntary organisations), or from our online bookshop. The King's Fund also published the working paper Ethnic Diversity and Mental Health in London: Recent developments in August 2003.

2. Responsibility for developing and improving services for black and minority ethnic communities already lies with the National Director for Mental Health, Professor Louis Appleby. Additionally, Professor Kamlesh Patel had been appointed as Acting National Strategic Director of the National Institute for Mental Health's (NIMHE) Black and minority ethnic mental health programme.

3. For interviews with The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson or senior mental health policy adviser Simon Lawton-Smith, please contact Daniel Reynolds in the King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927 or Michael Moruzzi on 020 7307 2585.