Experts call for Denmark to spend billions on mental health services

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.

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

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.

“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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‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Most Danish egg producers said on Monday they would no longer use fish meal in feed for organic hens after the pollutant chemical PFAS was detected in eggs.

‘Forever chemical’ PFAS found in organic eggs in Denmark

Danske Æg, an industry organisation representing around 90 percent of producers in the country, said in a statement that fish meal would no longer be used as a result of the discovery.

“In consideration of food safety we have stopped using fish meal,” Danske Æg sector director Jørgen Nyberg Larsen said in the statement.

A study conducted by the DTU National Food Institute (DTU Fødevareinstituttet) and the Danish Veterinary and Food Association (Fødevarestyrelsen) found a high PFAS content in egg yolks from hen farms across Denmark.

The chemical was transferred to the eggs from fish meal, which is used in feed for the hens, the study concluded.

“We take the situation very seriously because food safety is crucial for all of us. We are therefore no removing fish meal from organic eggs and putting all our efforts towards better understanding the situation,” Larsen said. 

What are PFAS? 

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of synthetic chemicals used in various products since the early 1950s. Their past uses include foam in fire extinguishers, food packaging and in textiles, carpets and paints. Also known as ‘forever chemicals’, they persist in water and soil and can cause harm to human health. 

Due to their chemical properties, they take a long time to break down and can be found in very low concentrations in blood samples from populations all over the world.

They are, however, unwanted in the environment because they have been found to have concerning links to health complications. Their use in materials which come into contact with foods, like paper and card, has been banned in Denmark since 2020.

PFAS have been linked to a series of health complications and, if ingested in high enough amounts, are suspected of causing liver damage, kidney damage, elevated cholesterol levels, reduced fertility, hormonal disturbances, weaker immune systems, negatively affecting foetal development and being carcinogenic.

READ ALSO: PFAS pollution: What do people living in Denmark need to know?

DTU National Food Institute said that the issue with the chemical making its way into eggs can be solved by changing the feed given to hens.

“We are already in close dialogue with the animal feed industry and work is ongoing on measures that will eliminate the problem. We note that DTU also has suggested solutions and we will naturally look at those,” Larsen said.

“But right now, we are putting a stop to fish meal so that consumers can also feel comfortable with organic eggs in the short term. After that, we can naturally look at a permanent fix,” he said.

Supermarket company Coop said on Monday that it had no plans to remove organic eggs from its shelves as a result of the detection of PFAS.

The company, which owns the SuperBrugsen, Irma and Kvickly grocery store chains, told news wire Ritzau it had been in contact with its suppliers of organic eggs to confirm that the level of PFAS in the eggs does not exceed the permitted amount.