Alan Johnson delight at WHO verdict on mental health services

A World Health Organization report shows England’s mental health services are among the best Europe, with higher levels of investment than in any other country.

Its strong capacity, training and network of community-based teams mean England is “increasingly being seen across Europe as a model to follow”, according to Matt Muijen, WHO regional adviser for mental health in Europe.

The report, launched on World Mental Health Day, found the government directed 13.8% of its health budget towards mental health, the highest proportion among countries which submitted figures, including France (11.5%) and Germany (10.3%).

It also spent the lowest proportion of mental health funding on psychiatric beds (26%), reflecting a shift away from institutional care.

Outreach teams

Thanks to its 700 community mental health teams, England is the only country in Europe with a comprehensive network of outreach set-ups. It is one of only three states, alongside Germany and Luxembourg, to offer home treatment to most service users.

Social workers specialising in mental health receive up to 400 undergraduate training hours in mental health – the second highest in Europe.

However, Muijen emphasised that services in England could still improve. The report found it was the only country apart from Estonia where ethnic minorities were “substantially over-represented” in psychiatric hospitals, while in psychotherapy there were “high levels of under-provision”. The government’s improving access to psychological therapies programme is addressing this, however.

Transformation of care

Louis Appleby, national clinical director for mental health in England, said he “very much welcomed the report”, which highlighted strong performance in investment, community care, human rights and service user involvement.

Health secretary Alan Johnson was “delighted that the WHO has recognised the transformation in mental health care in England over the last 10 years”.

Muijen welcomed the government’s move towards person-centred care, which he said was at the heart of the 2005 Helsinki declaration on mental health.

The 200-page report focuses on policies and practices for mental health in 42 European countries, judging performance in areas including mental health promotion, specialist services and anti-stigma initiatives.

It was commissioned in response to concerns about Europe’s high suicide rates (15 per 100,000 population) and prevalence of disorders such as neuropsychiatric illnesses.

Related articles

Healthcare Commission exposes community care gaps

Healthcare Commission finds four in 10 trusts weak at involving users

External information

World Health Organisation – regional office for Europe

Time to Change – voluntary sector-led campaign to end mental health discrimination

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