Health Secretary urged to probe claims of unequal mental health treatment

Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon has written to Jeane Freeman asking her to take action. Picture: Greg Macvean
Labour's health spokeswoman Monica Lennon has written to Jeane Freeman asking her to take action. Picture: Greg Macvean
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The Health Secretary has been urged to investigate concerns over access to mental health services for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) patients.

Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon has written to Jeane Freeman asking her to take action following claims BAME people can struggle to get proper mental health treatment.

Dr Asif Khan, a GP in Glasgow, told BBC Scotland: “Evidence shows that fewer individuals from the BAME community are referred on for specialist help and when they are eventually referred they tend to be over-treated.

“Harsher psychiatric diagnoses are made, more patients end up being sectioned and there are worse outcomes.”

He said some people in the Asian community are initially reluctant to seek help but when they do they can face “difficulties in accessing proper care”.

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Consultant psychiatrist Prof Sashi Sashidharan told the broadcaster it generally appears minority ethnic groups in Scotland “get a worse kind of mental health experience”.

Ms Lennon said: “The concerns raised by members of Scotland’s BAME communities over unequal access to mental health services within NHS Scotland are deeply worrying.

“That is why I have written to the Health Secretary urging her to swiftly investigate the concerns of these individuals and the medical experts who have spoken out and act to ensure everyone in Scotland has adequate access to mental health services instead of being denied good health outcomes.

“It’s been five years since research published in Scotland found inequalities in mental health care for minority ethnic groups.

“People will rightly be asking Nicola Sturgeon’s Government why they haven’t made this better.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone receives the best possible care and treatment, regardless of their background.

“We recognise that people from minority ethnic groups can find it hard to open up about their mental health or believe they will be listened to, but we are clear that ethnicity must not be a barrier to receiving high quality care.”

He said reducing health inequalities and barriers to health care are priorities of the framework and action plan the Government has published to tackle racism and help those from minority ethnic backgrounds.