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Innovative mental health equality project commended in national awards

An innovative project spearheaded by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to improve mental health services for black and minority ethnic communities has been presented with a high commended accolade at a national awards ceremony and there are plans to extend its reach.

The Open Mind initiative was recognised in the ‘equality and diversity in service delivery’ category of the National Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards 2015. NSFT was one of just three trusts to be shortlisted for the award from a field of 14 entries. Following its success in Suffolk, the next step will be to roll out the project across Norfolk.

Open Mind was launched in September 2014 in response to research which showed people from a black and ethnic minority community can have more adverse experiences and negative outcomes within mental health care.

Its aim has been to give diverse local communities a chance to make their voices heard so that services can be shaped to meet their specific needs, in turn helping to break down some of the inequalities which can make it more difficult for people to access care. This project will also be rolled out across Norfolk in the future.

As part of the project, community and voluntary organisations and members of the BME community took part in workshops to help NSFT understand the issues which are important to carers and service users. They are now working together with health professionals to look at ways in which services could be changed to make them more responsive to people’s diverse needs and easier for BME communities to access.

The project continues to go from strength to strength and has now established a BME expert group made up of service users and carers and health professionals who will be taking forward the Open Mind action plan. This includes piloting cultural awareness training and development courses for staff which will then be evaluated to assess the impact this has on patient care. Other key concerns highlighted by the project, including service delivery, feedback and access to services will also be investigated further by the group.

Ravi Seenan, Equalities and Engagement Manager with NSFT, said: “As a Trust, we are committed to ensuring everyone in Norfolk and Suffolk has fair access to the services we provide, and that those services are fully responsive to their needs.

“However, research show that BME groups appear to be one of the most disadvantaged when it comes to accessing and using our services, which is why Open Mind is so important.

“The project has helped us to develop some really strong relationships with members of our BME communities, and has given them a vital opportunity to share their views and help us improve our services in the future by making any necessary changes or cultural adaptations.

“We were absolutely delighted that this partnership work has been recognised nationally with this highly commended accolade.”