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Mental health services for black and minority ethnic elders in the United Kingdom: a systematic review of innovative practice with service provision and policy implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 November 2012

Sarmishtha Bhattacharyya
Old Age Psychiatry, Black Country Partnership Foundation Trust, West Midlands, UK Centre for Ageing and Mental Health, Staffordshire University, Stafford, UK
Susan Mary Benbow*
Centre for Ageing and Mental Health, Staffordshire University, Stafford, UK Older Mind Matters Ltd., Cheshire, UK
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Susan Mary Benbow, Professor of Mental Health and Ageing, Centre for Ageing and Mental Health, BL 167 Staffordshire University, Blackheath Lane, Stafford ST18 0AD, UK. Phone: +44 (0)1785 353742; Mobile: +44 (0)7789 485435. Email:


Background: The proportion of older people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the United Kingdom (UK) is increasing steadily as the population ages. The numbers with dementia, depression, and other mental health problems are predicted to increase. Government policy documents have highlighted gaps in services for BME elders and/or the need to develop culturally appropriate services, in order to prevent people from BME communities from becoming socially excluded and finding services hard to access. This paper reviews published examples of innovative services and key learning points from them.

Method: A search was carried out on Pubmed, Medline, and Google Scholar for service developments aimed at BME elders in the UK. Sixteen relevant papers and reports were identified and were analysed to identify learning points and implications for clinical practice and policy.

Results: Commissioning issues included were forward planning for continuing funding and mainstreaming versus specialist services. Provider management issues included were employing staff from the communities of interest, partnership, and removing language barriers. Provider service issues included were education for service provider staff on the needs of BME elders, making available information in relevant languages, building on carers’ and users’ experiences, and addressing the needs of both groups.

Conclusion: A model for structuring understanding of the underutilisation of services by BME elders is suggested. The main emphasis in future should be to ensure that learning is shared, disseminated, and applied to the benefit of all communities across the whole of the UK and elsewhere. Person-centred care is beneficial to all service users.

Review Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2012

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