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Health service ‘racism’ putting Asian patients at risk

27 May 2008

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“Institutional racism” in the health service is causing Asian patients with mental health problems to miss out on treatment, it has been claimed.

The chief executive of Leicestershire NHS Trust, Anthony Sheehan, said that the mental health service had effectively chosen not to engage with the Asian community.

Women from south Asian backgrounds are twice as likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population, and there are concerns that this may be in part due to their failure to obtain help with depression and other mental health problems.

“We really should acknowledge that the impact of institutional racism is there in mental health and other health and social care services in the same way it has been recognised in the criminal justice system,” Mr Sheehan said.

“Candidly, the real issue is just how we have chosen not to connect with the community.”

The chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission, Lord Patel of Bradford, warned that Asian communities could suffer similar levels of problems to black African and Caribbean groups, which are vastly over-represented in mental health institutions.

He said that the system must be alert to signs that people from Asian backgrounds are also experiencing problems.

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Mental Health Act Commission

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“No ‘body’ is nowadays individuals very well may be. Perhaps the greater problem regarding lord patel’s worry is that asians suffer institutional and societal stigma regarding mental health problems to a greater level so do not engage early enough or at all with those in a position to help” – Frank Fisher, Lancs