The mental health needs of healthcare workers: When evidence does not guide policy. A comparative assessment of selected European countries

Ellen Kuhlmann, Michelle Falkenbach, Monica Georgiana Brînzac, Tiago Correia, Maria Panagioti, Marius Ionut Ungureanu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: The healthcare workforce (HCWF) globally is facing high stress levels and deteriorating mental health due to workplace, labour market and policy deficiencies that further exacerbate the existing crisis. However, comprehensive and effective action is missing. Aims: We adopt a health system and governance perspective to address the mental health needs of healthcare workers (HCWs), considering the nature of interventions and the levels and actors involved in governance. The aim is to move the debate forward by identifying governance gaps hampering the implementation of health workforce policies and exploring strategies to effectively increase mental health support. Material and Methods: A qualitative comparative methodology is applied based on a case study design utilising a multi-level intersectoral governance matrix. We conducted a rapid assessment of HCWF developments in the European context (Germany, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), drawing on secondary sources and country experts. Results and Discussion: Awareness of mental health threats among HCWs increased, but policy discourse is driven by service delivery and labour market demands. The attention to HCWs' needs is stronger on the international level and weakest at national/regional levels. Although organisations and professions demonstrate varying degrees of activity, their efforts are scattered and lack sustainability. Similar challenges were identified across healthcare systems, including limited action, disconnected actors, missing coordination, and a lack of attention to governance gaps and system weaknesses. Conclusion: Adopting a health system approach is important but not sufficient. Successful mental health policy implementation needs multi-level governance and coherent coordination mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-636
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal Of Health Planning And Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • European comparison
  • evidence
  • governance
  • health systems
  • healthcare workforce
  • mental health
  • policy coordination


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