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The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented worldwide crisis affecting several sectors, including health, social care, economy and society at large. The World Health Organisation has emphasized that mental health care should be considered as one of the core sectors within the overall COVID-19 health response. By March 2020, recommendations for the organization of mental health services across Europe have been developed by several national and international mental health professional associations.
The European Psychiatric Association (EPA) surveyed a large European sample of psychiatrists, namely the “EPA Ambassadors”, on their clinical experience of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the treatment of psychiatric patients during the month of April 2020 in order to: a) identify and report the views and experiences of European psychiatrists; and b) represent and share these results with mental health policy makers at European level. Based on the recommendations issued by national psychiatric associations and on the results of our survey, we identified important organisational aspects of mental health care during the peak of the first wave of the COVID-19.
While most of the recommendations followed the same principles, significant differences between countries emerged in service delivery, mainly relating to referrals to outpatients and for inpatient admission, assessments and treatment for people with mental disorders. Compared to previous months, the mean number of patients treated by psychiatrists in outpatient settings halved in April 2020. In the same period, the number of mentally ill patients tested for, or developing, COVID-19 was low. In most of countries, traditional face-to-face visits were replaced by online remote consultations.
Based on our findings we recommend: 1) to implement professional guidelines into practice and harmonize psychiatric clinical practice across Europe; 2) to monitor the treatment outcomes of patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing mental disorders; 3) to keep psychiatric services active by using all available options (for example telepsychiatry); 4) to increase communication and cooperation between different health care providers.
Positive findings on early detection and early intervention services have been consistently reported from many different countries. The aim of this study, conducted within the European Brain Council project “The Value of Treatment”, was to estimate costs and the potential cost- savings associated with adopting these services within the context of the Czech mental health care reform.
Czech epidemiological data, probabilities derived from meta-analyses, and data on costs of mental health services in the Czech Republic were used to populate a decision analytical model. From the health care and societal perspectives, costs associated with health care services and productivity lost were taken into account. One-way sensitivity analyses were conducted to explore the uncertainty around the key parameters.
It was estimated that annual costs associated with care as usual for people with the first episode of psychosis were as high as 46 million Euro in the Czech Republic 2016. These annual costs could be reduced by 25% if ED services were adopted, 33% if EI services were adopted, and 40% if both, ED and EI services, were adopted in the country. Cost-savings would be generated due to decreased hospitalisations and better employment outcomes in people with psychoses.
Adopting early detection and early intervention services in mental health systems based on psychiatric hospitals and with limited access to acute and community care could generate considerable cost- savings. Although the results of this modelling study needs to be taken with caution, early detection and early intervention services are recommended for multi-centre pilot testing accompanied by full economic evaluation in the region of Central and Eastern Europe.
The aim of the European Brain Council project “The Value of Treatment” was to provide evidence-based, cost-effective policy recommendations for a patient-centered and sustainable coordinated care model for brain disorders. The first part of schizophrenia study examined the needs and gaps in the patients' care pathway.
Descriptive analysis was based on an inventory of needs and treatment opportunities, using focus group sessions, expert interviews, users’ input, and literature review. Three patient pathways were selected: indicated prevention, duration of untreated psychosis, and relapse prevention.
The analysis identified several critical barriers to optimal treatment. Available health care services often miss or delay detection of symptoms and diagnosis in at-risk individuals. There is a lack of illness awareness among patients, families, and the public; scarcity of information, training and education among primary care providers; stigmatizing beliefs. Early symptom recognition and timely intervention result in better outcome and prognosis; effective management leads to a functional recovery. In the current model of care, there is insufficient cooperation between health and social care providers, patients and families, inadequate utilization of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, lacking patient monitoring, and low implementation of integrated community care.
Early detection and early intervention programs, timely intervention, and relapse prevention are essential for effective management of schizophrenia. It requires a paradigm shift from symptom control, achieving and maintaining remission, to the emphasis on recovery. Since the current services are not able to accomplish this goal, changes in mental health policies are needed.