European UnionMore must be done to foster a positive outlook and promote recovery for people living with schizophrenia, European politicians, policy advisers and healthcare professionals have said.

This was the key message from a meeting held by the European Parliament Interest Group on Mental Health, Well-being and Brain Disorders in Brussels on November 5, which discussed a new report Schizophrenia: Time to Commit to Policy Change. The report was authored by international experts including psychiatrists, researchers, policy advisers, nurses, patients, carers and advocacy groups. Delegates were urged to take its key recommendations to local, national and regional policy makers.

The recommendations include:

• An integrated care package that addresses physical as well as mental health needs
• Support for people with schizophrenia to enter and remain in their community
• Mechanisms to guide patients and their caregivers through the often complex benefit and employment systems to enhance recovery
• A regular revision, update and improvement of policy on the management of schizophrenia
• Support for research and development of new treatments
• On-going and regular awareness-raising campaigns.

“Creating a free, healthy and supportive environment to promote recovery is central to schizophrenia care,” said MEP Nessa Childers, co-chair of the Interest Group and a psychotherapist.

More “should be done”

The recommendations are backed by GAMIAN-Europe, a coalition of patient organisations focusing on patients affected by mental ill health. Its patient survey advocates the joint provision of medication, psychotherapy/counselling, psychoeducation and self-help. The survey found that less than 3% of patients polled receive the full package of care treatment, and nearly 24% said they weren’t aware of self-help groups.

“The expectations of healthcare providers for patients in terms of positive outcomes and recovery is too low. More can and should be done for patients,” said Professor Silvana Galderisi, professor of psychiatry at the University of Naples SUN, Italy, and one of the authors of the report.

The estimated cost in Europe of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia was about €29 billion (£24.3 billion) in 2012. The cost is made up of direct costs (medication, outpatient care, inpatient care and long-term care) and indirect costs (absence from work, reduced productivity at work, carer burden and premature mortality). Appropriate and better management of schizophrenia is likely to reduce the total costs as productivity of patients increases and associated indirect costs fall.

MEP Jean Lambert said: “I sincerely hope the recommendations will be taken on board by those responsible for setting health policy priorities in the months and years ahead.”