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Psychiatric services for people with severe mental illness across western Europe: what can be generalized from current knowledge about differences in provision, costs and outcomes of mental health care?

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Department of Psychiatry II, University of Ulm, Bezirkskrankenhaus, G├╝nzburg, Germany.



To report recent findings regarding differences in the provision, cost and outcomes of mental health care in Europe, and to examine to what extent these studies can provide a basis for improvement of mental health services and use of findings across countries.


Findings from a number of studies describing mental health care in different European countries and comparing provision of care across countries are reported.


The development of systems of mental health care in western Europe is characterized by a common trend towards deinstitutionalization, less in-patient treatment and improvement of community services. Variability between national mental healthcare systems is still substantial. At the individual patient level the variability of psychiatric service systems results in different patterns of service use and service costs. However, these differences are not reflected in outcome differences in a coherent way.


It is conceivable that the principal targets of mental healthcare reform can be achieved along several pathways taking into account economic, political and sociocultural variation between countries. Differences between mental healthcare systems appear to affect service provision and costs. However, the impact of such differences on patient outcomes may be less marked. The empirical evidence is limited and further studies are required.

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