|By Zephaniah Samuels 23/10/2010A number of election manifestos have highlighted the need to ensure that the concerns of some of society’s most marginalised groups, including mental health services users to not get sidelined in the run up to this year’s general election.
With predictions indicating one of the closest races to Downing street that this country has seen in decades, the concerns of communities not normally listened to by the major parties are likely to become a major factor in this tightly run race.
Research shows that ethnic minorities hold the power in over 70 constituencies. The persistent failings within mental health services and the over representation of innocent people from African Caribbean communities profiled on the national criminal DNA database is increasingly being recognised election issues for black Britain.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) pre election manifesto calling for longer consultation times with patients and improved services for socially excluded groups has been welcomed in many quarters of the community.
Entitled ”Leading the Way: High Quality Care For All Through General Practice “, this document makes a number of proposals which the RCGP says is designed to produce “a healthier society and promote healthier lifestyles”.
The two page policy statement also sets out the need to see more GP involvement in the commissioning of out-of-hours, better and faster access to diagnostic tests. The manifesto also calls for better access to talking therapies, and improved skill mix in primary care, to create ‘enhanced practice teams’ including nurses, health visitors, midwives, community physiotherapists and pharmacists.
‘”Our health service faces a huge challenge: how to respond to reduced funding without reducing the quality of the services we provide, or the quality of the care our patients deserve. The RCGP is up for the challenge and is already leading the way in showing how high-quality, cost effective care can be available to all, based on clinical need and not an individual’s ability to pay.” RCGP Chairman Professor Steve Field said.
What Women Want
2020 Health, a think tank for health and technology has also launched, ‘What Women Want: A manifesto for Health ‘ written exclusively by women with experience in health.
Setting out practical suggestions for the next government on meeting the health needs of the nation, ‘this document gives a voice to much of the female talent that is can all too often be ignored in the realms of the health debate,’ Julia Manning 2020 Health Chief Executive said.
Touching on the future of surgery, elderly care, general practices, physiotherapy and diversity in mental health care, this manifesto also marks the start of a political campaign.
The section on mental health sets the need for single sexed wards in every mental health unit across the country in order to ensure a basic level of safety for vulnerable patients.
This section also calls for a commitment from the next government to ensure health providers are resourced to provide places of safety within a hospital or community setting for those detained under the Mental Health Act, in order to end the use of police cells. There is also a call to see the Government make a commitment to see a reduction in the increase in unexplained inpatient deaths.
‘There needs to be a commitment from government to address the inequalities and injustices in the mental health system so that services and the practices are just and fair to all sections of our society irrespective of race, gender and cultural background,’ Matilda MacAttram author of the Diversity in Mental Health section of the 2020 Health Manifesto said.
Health and social care
The Afiya Trust has also set out a seven point manifesto aimed at tackling the racial inequalities in health and social care provision. Launched last week this new document is entitled ‘Achieving Equality in Health adn Social Care: A framework for action, Focused on reducing inequalities in this sector between ethnic minorities and the mainstream population, this document shows that ethnic minorities including people from African Caribbean communities face poorer health than average health outcomes.
Care services continue to fail these groups and in many instances are largely unawareof their needs. This manifesto also points out that when people from the community do come in contact with the services they tend to have a worse experience than their white counterparts.
Recommendations include calls for the government to set a mandatory duty for accountability on health equality outcomes with clear milestones to end racial inequalities in health and social care. The charity says that these should be linked to performance targets for primary care trusts, local authorities and mental health trusts.
‘There is disturbing evidence that health inequalities are getting wider between the general population and BME communities. We need to break this vicious cycle so that everyone is treated equally and fairly. This requires a major cultural and leadership shift in mainstream services and government’, Patrick Vernon, Chief Executive of The Afiya Trust said.