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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

‘Slow progress’ in improving mental health services for black and minority ethnic older people

Embargoed until 25 August 2009

Little progress has been made in improving mental health services for black and minority ethnic (BME) older people over the last eight years, according to a new report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

The report examines what changes have occurred in services offered to BME older people since the College’s original report was published in 2001. Although a few examples of good practice have emerged, the 2009 review report claims progress in developing and improving services “has been slow”.

Professor Ajit Shah and Dr Simon Adelman, the authors of the report, said: “With a growing BME elderly population, the time is now right to build on previous work to further develop culturally appropriate and sensitive mental health services for older people from BME groups.”

Dr Dave Anderson, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry, added: “With an ageing population the numbers of people with mental health problems is rising rapidly. It is vital to improve access to specialist older people’s mental health services equipped to meet the needs of this neglected group of older people. By 2030 there will be twice as many people over age 65 as there will be teenagers. The time has come to actually deliver equality.”

Over the last decade, the mental health of BME groups has become a national priority in the UK. In 2001, estimates put the proportion of BME older people over the age of 65 at 8.2% of the total population in England and Wales – up from just 3% in 1991.

Research suggests dementia and depression are as common, or more common, in older people from BME groups in the UK than among older white British people. However, BME older people have poor access to mental health services.

The report, CR156: Psychiatric Services for Black and Minority Ethnic Older People, makes six major new recommendations, including:

  • Projects to evaluate the effectiveness of professional interpretation services and new ways of providing information to BME older people e.g. cassettes, CDs, videos and DVDs.
  • Funding to develop diagnostic tools for dementia and depression in languages spoken by BME older people that can be administered by an English-speaking mental health practitioner with the aid of a professional interpreter.
  • Widening the existing annual census of psychiatric services to examine BME older people’s access to services in all settings, including the community.
  • Establishing a new RCPsych working group, as part of the College’s Faculty of the Psychiatry of Old Age, to address this neglected area.

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896



Shah A, Adelman S and Ong YL (2009) CR156: Psychiatric Services for Black and Minority Ethnic Older People, Royal College of Psychiatrists


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