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Experts call for Denmark to spend billions on mental health services

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Experts call for Denmark to spend billions on mental health services
Experts have recommended massive spending on Denmark's psychiatric services. Talks on new 10-year plan are expect to take place in parliament this week. File photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Several billion kroner must be spent to bring Denmark’s psychiatry services up to the desired standard, a society representing the specialisation has said as the government prepares to begin negotiations over a new 10-year plan for the area.

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The Danish Psychiatric Association is to present an investment plan to Parliament with 4.5 billion allocated to permanent operating expenses and 3.5 billion in one-off grants for facilities. 

“The calculations show that quite a large amount is needed if you want to fulfil the ambitions for psychiatry,” Jakob Kjellberg, professor of health economics at the National Research and Analysis Center for Welfare, told news wire Ritzau. 

Kjellberg worked on the investment plan along with the head of the Danish Psychiatric Association, Merete Nordentoft.

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“It’s fine to talk about wanting to do something, but we are trying to make it concrete and say that this will cost quite a lot,” Kjellberg said.

The professor also said that the amounts were not exact, but a summary calculation and an effort to demonstrate what “a visionary image costs”.

The recommendations form an expert element of negotiations over a 10-year plan for psychiatric care, which parliament is scheduled to begin this week.

Talks will revolve around issues such as reducing wait times to see providers, pinning down a budget, and recruiting more students to psychology and psychiatry to ensure a future workforce. 

“It’s not one-to-one, but we are talking about the same type of investments and resources,” Kjellberg said.

“The point is that this isn’t something that can be fixed with a couple of hundred million [kroner], but will take, on the contrary, a lot of money and a lot of money going forward,” he said.

The model is neither low-cost nor luxurious, he said.

“It has schemes which we know from some parts of the country, which we envision making national. So it’s completely specific things that we already know – just scaled up,” he said.

He also noted that not all of the money would be needed immediately.

“Even if you got all the money for next year, you’d have no chance of spending it all because there wouldn’t be enough staff. So if we really want to lift up psychiatry, we have to think about recruitment and retainment and then a long timescale before we get to where we want to be,” he said.

The sector’s challenges cannot be solved with “single reach into the pocket,” the professor of health economics said.

An average of one in four patients has had their referrals to mental health services rejected in several of Denmark's regions, according to reports earlier this summer.

READ MORE: Why does it take so long in Denmark to see a psychologist or therapist? 

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