Sobus data analysis helps advocate for change in mental health service provision for minority ethnic groups locally

Part of our Data Journey's research case study series, with Think Social Tech.

May 2023


Data is persuasive and hard to ignore, especially when external experts are involved. When you publish a report about data, it gives your work legitimacy



Sobus is a Community Development Agency and the Council for Voluntary Service in Hammersmith & Fulham. It provides a wide range of support services for local charities, community groups, social enterprises and start up businesses. 

They were seeing ongoing concerns about the disproportionate numbers of specific ethnic groups locally, including young black men being people diagnosed with mental health conditions, under the care of mental health services and that there was inadequate service provision to these communities.

This is a concern that has been around for decades both locally and nationally.

For example, over 30 years ago 80% of the acute admissions at the local mental health facility, St Bernard’s Hospital, were young black men. National data and wider research confirmed these trends. 

Sobus sits on the Hammersmith and Fulham Health and Wellbeing Board, as well engaging with the West London NHS Trust (the statutory mental health provider for Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow) at local and strategic levels.

However, their experience was not enough to make the case for further investment in this area, over and above other priorities. It soon became clear that they needed to understand the local picture. Moreover, the secondary datasets available did not provide the level of detail needed or the breakdown for specific minoritised groups. 

Sobus set out to rectify this, undertaking a project in 2020 to explore the prevalence of mental health issues in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic population in Hammersmith & Fulham*.


Data approach

The research involved bringing together a range of local datasets, as well as conducting a qualitative survey with local groups. However, this was far from straightforward. 

Firstly, the data Sobus needed was publicly available, but was not broken down by ethnicity or gender. Sobus worked with the council to access the granularity they needed, whilst ensuring anonymity.

The project sought and received data from West London NHS Trust (the main provider of mental health services in three west London boroughs namely Hammersmith & Fulham, Ealing and Hounslow), primary care data from Hammersmith & Fulham GP Federation along with Social Care data, as well as our own survey of the sector.

This was a huge amount of data that included ethnic, gender, age, location and diagnosis breakdown.

Sobus also undertook interviews with 17 local VCS organisations.

These were undertaken by a community organiser from the African Caribbean community, with an existing good relationship with the groups involved.

Local minority ethnic organisations, including those with lived experience, were involved and consulted throughout the project. This helped better understand local mental health services, needs and issues.

Sobus knew what they wanted to achieve, but soon realised they didn’t have the analysis skills to work with this level of data. Furthermore, they wanted to ensure their findings had validity and legitimacy. 

Sobus got in touch with Superhighways for additional support with the project in 2019. This led them to Datakind UK, a partner in the Datawise London programme at the time.

Datakind UK organised a DataDive, an eight-week programme bringing together 30 expert volunteer data scientists in a weekend-long event to analyse data.

They looked at data to evidence the need for mental health services amongst Black and Minority Ethnic Groups, as well as data to understand the supply of services. Superhighways continued to provide support to Sobus throughout so they could both access and organise data needed for the DataDive.


Some of their findings included:

  • BAME communities are over-represented in occupied beds and referrals at the West London Trust
  • Black communities (excluding other) are more likely to be re-admitted than the white community.
  • BAME patients are more likely to have been admitted with schizophrenia and substance abuse than non-BAME (white)
  • BAME admissions per quarter have also been increasing since 2017, whereas non-BAME admissions are slightly decreasing
  • Areas with the highest level of deprivation were also the areas that had the highest BAME population
  • Hammersmith and Fulham have the fewest mental healthcare providers when compared to other boroughs (aside from City of London)

Sobus published a report (available online here) which evidenced and highlighted an urgent need to address a range of issues, including:

  • The over-representation of BAME individuals under the care of mental health services
  • Lack of appropriate support for BAME individuals facing mental health issues
  • General lack of mental health service providers, particularly when compared to most other boroughs in London.
  • BAME communities not engaging with mental health services, as well as a lack of awareness generally about where to go for help
  • Lack of support for young people facing mental health issues

This gave Sobus the credibility and data they needed to advocate for change. 

The report and the findings had a big impact amongst their stakeholders and in the local authority.

It showed the need for more services, for services to be more culturally sensitive and the importance of co-designing services, because clinically led approaches don’t attract people. 

This contributed significantly to the creation of the Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health Community Grants Programme, which commenced in April 2022. West London NHS Trust funds the programme and manages it in partnership with LB Hammersmith & Fulham and Sobus.

Fourteen organisations have been funded.

Project activities are designed to raise awareness, deliver services which promote health and wellbeing towards helping prevent mental health issues developing or deteriorating in individuals.

The programme also aims to improve engagement between statutory mental health services and community and voluntary sector organisations and communities.

This will hopefully promote early intervention and appropriate clinical and professional support when needed by individuals in the community.


Advice for others

Get feedback from the community, even if just one person is saying they are seeing a trend, you will soon realise it’s not unique when you look at the data. 
Ask for support from data experts like Superhighways and Datakind. 
Don’t duplicate what exists, you can find a lot from people who already have data
Data is persuasive and hard to ignore, especially when external experts are involved. When you publish a report about data, it gives your work legitimacy


Contact us

Do you need help on your data journey? If you are a small charity or community organisation in London email Superhighways


*This case study uses a descriptor from the 2020 report. BAME is also widely described as ethnic minorities and ethnic groups.