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Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 13, Issue 2, 2010. Pages: 73-86
Published Online: 30 June 2010

Copyright © 2010 ICMPE.


 

PERSPECTIVES
Evaluating Mental Health Care and Policy in Spain

Luis Salvador-Carulla,*1 Joan Costa-Font,2 Juan Cabases,3 David McDaid,4 Jordi Alonso5

1Head, Research Unit, Fundacio Villablanca, Reus, University of Cadiz, Jerez and Red de Investigacion en Actividades Preventivas y de Prevencion de la Salud (redIAPP), Barcelona, Spain.
2Senior Lecturer, LSE Health and Social Care, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
3Profesor of Applied Economics, Universidad Publica de Navarra, Spain.
4Senior Research Fellow, LSE Health and Social Care and European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
5Health Service Research Unit, Institut Municipal d'Investigacion Medica (IMIM-Hospital del Mar), and CIBER en Epidemiologia y Salud Publica (CIBERESP), Barcelona, Spain.

* Correspondence to: Prof. Luis Salvador-Carulla, Head Research Unit (UNIVID), Fundaci¢n Villablanca. Grupo Pere Mata. Carretera de Bellisens s/n, 43206 REUS (TARRAGONA), Spain.
Tel.: +34-977-390 011 ext. 81
Fax: +34-977-392 363
E-mail: luis.salvador@telefonica.net

Source of Funding: The authors gratefully acknowledge partial financial support from the Andalusian Research Plan (PAI: P06-CTS-01765) and MHEEN-II training grant MH19733-09/10 and from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (PO1 HS10803).

Abstract

The reform of mental health care (MHC) systems is a key health policy target worldwide. To discuss the organisation, provision and financing of MHC in Spain. We draw upon existing literature, reports and empirical data from regional and national health plans, as well as European reports pertinent to Spain. In addition an expert panel has reviewed the features of MHC, namely its history, characteristics and determinants. Spain has moved to full de-institutionalisation alongside coverage expansion and policy innovation. There remains a lack of earmarked budgets for MHC , an imbalance in MHC reforms, and a lack of monitoring of the reform process. The new focus is on how to improve coordination within and across sectors, tackle socio-economic inequalities, monitoring trends including trans-institutionalisation, services to meet the needs of new migrants, as well as those of the rural population.

 

Background: The reform and expansion of mental health care (MHC) systems is a key health policy target worldwide. Evidence informed policy aims to make use of a wide range of relevant data, taking into account past experience and local culture and context.

Aims: To discuss the organisation, provision and financing of MHC in Spain vis a vis the goals of recent psychiatric reforms.

Method: We draw upon existing literature, reports and empirical data from regional and national health plans, as well as European reports pertinent to Spain. In addition we have made use of iterative discussion by an expert panel on the features of Spanish MHC services, namely its history, characteristics and determinants in comparison to reforms in other European health systems.

Results: In contrast to most other European health systems, the Spanish case reveals that political regional devolution leads to a greater heterogeneity in MHC systems, with some of the 17 autonomous communities (ACs) or region states that make up the country moving more rapidly to full de-institutionalisation alongside coverage expansion and policy innovation. There remains a lack of specific earmarked budgets for MHC at a time of under-funding. There has been an imbalance in MHC reforms, with more focus on the principles underpinning the process of de-institutionalisation and less on the actual development of alternative community based mental health services. Moreover there has been a lack of monitoring of the reform process. Common to other countries, attempts to develop a more informed evidence policy have been hampered by a dislocation between the production of research evidence and the timing of actual policy reform implementation.

Discussion: Much of the focus of policy attention is on how to improve coordination within and across sectors, tackle socio-economic inequalities and thus reduce the gap between perceived and observed need while monitoring any trends suggesting trans-institutionalisation. Other issues include developing and strengthening services to meet the needs of new migrants, as well as those of the rural population. There is also a growing recognition of the need to strengthen the evidence base both through research capacity and mechanisms to encourage the use of health economic information as one key component in the assessment of the system.

Implications for Health Policies: The evolution of MHC in Spain may be regarded as a useful contextual case study for other countries embarking on reform, including some in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Spain is an example of a country that has undergone substantial economic and democratic transition in a short time frame; it has seen significant economic growth in some areas and has experienced mass immigration. While it is too early to judge the effectiveness of reforms in Spain, work to date clearly indicates some of the challenges that have to be overcome. These include better harmonisation and integration between health and social care, and more attention paid to the development or monitoring mechanisms to assess progress in reform implementation and better identify any widening of geographical disparities.


Received 5 October 2009; accepted 4 May 2010

Copyright 2010 ICMPE