HL Deb 12 February 2004 vol 656 cc55-6WS
Lord Warner

My honourable friend the Minister of State (Ms Rosie Winterton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The report of the independent inquiry into the death of David "Rocky" Bennett is published today. David Bennett's death is a tragedy and my sincere sympathies go out to his family for their loss. He died five years ago in a medium secure unit after being restrained by staff. The report raises a number of very important issues. We have a duty to understand these and act upon their findings.

It is essential that the health service is safe for service users and staff. Following a meeting with David Bennett's family, we established the cross-government group on the management of aggression and violence. We have just published positive practice standards for local services, and have established a programme of work with the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) to help to improve the organisation and quality of training for staff. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence will shortly publish guidance in this area.

I accept that there is discrimination in the NHS, both direct and indirect. There is no place for racism or discrimination. It is unacceptable; it contradicts the basic value of equity that is the cornerstone of the health service. In mental health we have already made a start by publishing Delivering race equality, which outlines a national framework for local action.

Behaviours and processes that have grown up in mental health services mean that there is particular inequity in the provision of care and outcomes for people from black and minority ethnic groups. We are committed to rooting out racism, tackling these inequalities and ensuring that the experience of people from black and ethnic minority groups is improved. The consultation feedback on Delivering race equality and the recommendations of the David Bennett inquiry report will help to inform future action.

We also need senior, committed, leadership to ensure that change happens. This is why Professor Kamlesh Patel, chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, has been asked to direct the national programme of work, including the work of the National Institute for Mental Health. A national steering group, co-chaired by Lord Victor Adebowale, from Turning Point will also inform us. I will expect quarterly reports on progress.

The National Institute for Mental Health has been set up to help to improve local mental health services. Its largest programme is focused on black and minority ethnic mental health. It covers:

  • better quality and more intelligently used information;
  • more appropriate and responsive services; and,
  • increased community engagement.

In order to ensure that change is sustainable we need to work with local communities to help us to understand their needs and to build their confidence. To help to achieve this we will fund 80 community engagement projects and appoint 500 community development workers to make a direct connection between local people, staff and services.

In Delivering race equality we are absolutely committed to ensuring that staff have the knowledge and skills to enable them to deliver services to, and in partnership with, all groups in their community. This includes race equality training.

Last but not least, when serious incidents occur, we know that good communication is essential. Families and carers need to be involved, and different agencies must communicate more effectively with each other. We are therefore working with the Home Office and police to improve local liaison; and with the NPSA to reform the process of independent inquiries. This will help to ensure that families and carers can be more closely engaged, and that staff and services learn the lessons they need to. We deeply regret the death of David Bennett. We are committed to making change happen.