The NHS has been urged to 'put its own house in order' by employing more staff with mental health problems, in a report on social exclusion by mental health charity Mind.

The inquiry highlights exclusion from employment as the 'key nut to crack' in improving the outlook for mental health service users. It singles out the NHS - and mental health services - for particular attention for their failure to 'lead the way' on the issue.

The report quotes Dr Rachel Perkins, a service user and clinical director of rehabilitation services at South West London and St George's Mental Health trust.

She urges: 'If in the health services we are going to look to outside employers to employ people who've experienced mental health difficulties, we jolly well ought to put our own house in order first.'

Of the businesses taking part in Mind's initial survey, few could provide examples of good practice.

Creating Accepting Communities calls for new 'comprehensive and enforceable' anti-discrimination legislation to replace the 'limited' Disability Discrimination Act, and urges the government to 'enshrine the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of mental ill-health' in a new act.

It also urges the government's social exclusion unit to set up a 'co-ordinated national initiative' to promote employment of people with mental health problems.

Participants in the inquiry voiced unease that government policy was 'reinforcing' perceptions of a link between violent behaviour and mental ill health.

Newcastle City Health trust chief executive Lionel Joyce said those suffering bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression were 'being threatened with compulsory treatments and compulsory detention completely inappropriately'.

He said it was 'overwhelmingly in the interests' of mentally ill people that those who committed crimes while suffering from severe personality disorder were labelled as 'bad', not mentally ill.

The report calls on the government to use public education resources to challenge perceptions of the link between violence and mental ill health.