NHS talking therapies review identifies barriers to ethnic minorities in accessing care

A landmark independent review of services provided by NHS talking therapies has identified that psychotherapy services need better tailoring to meet the needs of Black and minoritised ethnic groups.

10 years of anonymised patient data found that historically, people from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds have experienced poorer access to, and outcomes from, NHS talking therapies. Over this time period, compared to White British groups, they are less likely to access services and tend to wait longer for assessment and to access treatments.rainbow drawing

The data also showed that poor outcomes were faced by people from South Asian communities, in particular Bangladeshi groups. People of mixed ethnicity, mostly White and Black Caribbean, are the least likely to access these services.

The comprehensive assessment review was undertaken in partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH).

It noted poor outcomes can be tackled and even disappear when access is improved and culturally sensitive therapy is provided. People from Black African backgrounds using IAPT services were sometimes more likely to improve and recover in comparison with White British people.

The new report from the NHS Race and Health Observatory calls on commissioners, clinicians, and healthcare organisations to address ethnic health inequalities by improving resources and training to enhance understanding of mental health inequality, and by recruiting culturally sensitive and ethnically diverse therapists.

The review calls for commissioners of NHS services to develop training to improve understanding of mental health inequality, particularly how it impacts people from Black and minoritised ethnic backgrounds. It calls on service providers to ensure therapists are ethnically diverse, services are co-designed in partnership with different communities, therapists offer additional sessions if they need time to understand cultural differences, and talking therapy services are promoted to underserved communities.

Dr Habib Naqvi, chief executive of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said: ‘We recognise there are still critical gaps in access and outcomes when it comes to mental health support and talking therapies, across different ethnic groups. There are many people from Black and minoritised ethnic communities struggling with their mental health, and yet they are less likely to be referred to talking therapies and have poorer experiences and outcomes once they are referred. It’s vital that we take a serious look at the findings of this review – reflect on what has been effective in the past, and address how service provision can be more inclusive and equitable across all communities.’

Image: Alex Jackman

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