More support needed for health, care, and public service workers in new Mental Health Strategy

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(Press release, Brussels 7 June 2023) The European Federation of Public Service Trade Unions (EPSU) welcomes the European Commission’s proposed Mental Health Strategy but cautions that the strategy cannot achieve its goals without directly addressing the serious problems already facing the workers who will be instrumental in its implementation.

EPSU emphasises the urgent need for concrete actions to support and protect the health and safety of public service workers who provide essential services and care to our communities.
Four critical expectations must be met:

  1. The goals set out by the Mental Health Strategy cannot be achieved until Europe takes decisive action to address the severe staff shortages faced by health and care workers including those delivering mental care. Europe is currently missing over two million health and care workers, with levels expected to rise to four million by 2023. These shortages not only compromise the delivery of quality mental care but also contribute to increased stress and mental health issues among workers themselves. It is imperative to ensure adequate staffing levels and improve working conditions to support the mental well-being of both patients and workers.
  2. A dedicated Directive on Psychosocial Risk Factors is urgently needed. This directive should prioritise the prevention of these risks and embed comprehensive measures within workplaces to proactively protect the mental health of health and care employees. Robust frameworks to tackle psychosocial risks are crucial and must be incorporated.
  3. Substantial investment is needed in the health and care sectors for the strategy to succeed. However, it is crucial that these investments prioritise public services and reject any tendencies towards the commercialisation of care. Our focus should remain on providing quality care and support to those in need, rather than allowing profit-driven motives to undermine the fundamental principles of health and care services.
  4. The Commission strategy picks up the ongoing negotiations on telework and the right to disconnect at cross-sectoral level. However, it ignores the fact that social partners in central government have already reached an agreement on those issues. Their digitalisation agreement outlines a right to disconnect and regulates several other aspects of telework and working with digital technologies. The agreement also provides for health risk assessments including staffing levels, which are recognised as psychosocial risk factors. The social partners formally requested the implementation of the agreement as a directive in October 2022, and have yet to receive an indication from the Commission on how this will be achieved.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary, EPSU comments,The strategy’s commitment to bring social partner agreements to the Council for a decision to implement as legislation is welcome. Employers and trade unions in central government administrations expect the same treatment for their agreement. We look forward to collaborating with the cross-sectoral social partners and the Commission to ensure that the agreements strengthen each other and deliver on the rights of central government workers, as set out in the October 2022 agreement.

EPSU, the representative European trade union federation for public service workers in health, care, public administrations and more, will campaign for a Mental Health Strategy that genuinely addresses the needs of the workers who will ultimately ensure the success of the strategy.


For more info Pablo Sanchez [email protected] 0032(0) 474626633

EPSU brings together trade unions from across Europe and represents over 8 million public service workers. It is the representative European trade union organisation in the health and social services sectors. EPSU works hard to deliver better working conditions, improved health and safety and enhanced rights for its members. By sitting down with employers at European level, we improve the working lives of public service workers and ensure quality services for citizens.