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Digital therapy and mental health video games for children recommended by NICE

Digital therapy and mental health video games for children recommended by NICE

Four digital mental health cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) tools have been recommended for use in children and young people suffering from mental illness, pending regulatory approval.

NICE has recommended the digital tools for use as an initial treatment option in the NHS for children aged between 5 and 18 who are suffering from mild to moderate anxiety and low mood.

The tools use guided self-help digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) technologies, involving a range of games, videos, and quizzes to help children learn techniques to understand and manage their own symptoms.

Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE, said that ‘this guidance shows how NICE is focusing on what matters most by getting the best care to patients fast.’

While the tools will not immediately be available for use they are the first to be published as final ‘early value assessment’ (EVA) guidance, in a new type of NICE guidance that provides recommendations on health technologies that have the potential to address national unmet need.

EVAs look at promising technology that could be used in the NHS while further evidence is being generated, to enable faster access for patients. Currently an EVA is expected to take six months to produce, shorter than the current timescale for NICE medical technologies guidance.

Mr Chapman said: ‘Patient experts told our committee that mental health services are in high demand, access varies widely across the country, and there is an unmet need when it comes to receiving treatment while on waiting lists to see specialists. These four technologies offer low risk options to children and young people who need to begin treatment as soon as possible.’

This comes amid concerning rises in the number of children and young people seeking to access NHS mental health services. Recent data released by NHS Digital showed that a quarter of all young people had a probable mental health disorder.

Digital CBT is delivered by mobile phones, tablets, or computers and can be accessed remotely for greater flexibility and privacy. NICE claims that this is particularly appealing to children and young people who are regular users of digital technology.

Children using the treatment will also receive the regular support of a healthcare professional and safeguarding and risk management must be put in place.

It will be up to the local NHS to determine how they wish to commission these treatment options once they receive regulatory approval.

Health secretary Steve Barclay said the games, videos and quizzes ‘represent a promising step forward for new treatment options for children and young people, with early evidence showing they could help improve symptoms of anxiety or low mood’.

NICE will recommend:

• Lumi Nova (BfB Labs)
– A digital therapeutic intervention in the form of a game for children aged 7 to 12.
– Practitioners track and monitor player progress with the game and check in with users and carers provide support to their child.

• OSCA (Online Social anxiety Cognitive therapy for Adolescents)
– An internet programme of cognitive therapy for social anxiety in adolescents aged 14 to 18 years old.
– Users receive a set of individualised modules.

• Online support and intervention for child anxiety (OSI)
– An internet based, parent-led and therapist supported psychological intervention for children aged 5 to 12 years old with symptoms of anxiety.
– It has three components: a parent’s website, a clinician case management website and an optional game app for children.

• Space from anxiety for teens, Space from low mood for teens, Space from low mood and anxiety for teens (SilverCloud)
– Internet-based (computer, tablet or smart phone) intervention for 15- to 18-year-olds with symptoms of anxiety, low mood, or both.
– Structured around the principles of traditional CBT, with sections on: understanding anxiety or low mood, noticing feelings, facing your fears, spotting thoughts, challenging thoughts, managing worry and reflections on learnings.

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