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Digitally enabled therapies approved to increase NHS mental health capacity

Digitally enabled therapies approved to increase NHS mental health capacity

Eight digitally assisted therapy tools that help manage depression and anxiety in adults have been recommended by NICE today, as part of efforts to improve treatment capacity in NHS mental health services.

The therapies, which can be used to help address depression, anxiety, PTSD, and body dysmorphia, have been conditionally recommended while additional evidence is generated under a new NICE rapid assessment process known as early value assessment.

These tools include online cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) modules and guided self-help programmes for people with PTSD. Patients can take on CBT modules and communicate with therapists through the app or web portal.

Beating the Blues, one of the therapies being recommended, is an online computerised CBT programme for people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety. The sessions contain interactive material, videos, and practical hands-on tools that help people to understand their mental health problems and learn techniques to change their thinking and behaviours.

This comes as there is growing pressure on NHS mental health services, as one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week in England, according to NHS Digital,

There is also high demand for the NHS talking therapies service, with waiting times of up to 6 weeks to access help.

NICE suggests that the needs of more people with mental health conditions could be met by digital approaches, as digitally enabled therapies are likely to need less time for delivery than other psychological interventions.

Seeking to identify promising medical technology for rapid deployment into the NHS, this same assessment process was used in February to conditionally approve the use of mental health video games to treat anxiety in children.

NICE suggests that the technologies together have the potential to treat more than 40,000 people.

Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation, at NICE said: We want these new treatment options to be available for people to use as quickly as possible and we also want to make sure they are clinically effective and represent good value for the NHS. The additional evidence collected during this period will help us do that.’

These digital enabled therapies will form part of the NHS Talking Therapies services and must be delivered with a practitioner’s support including repeat monitoring and management of patient safety.

Professor Dame Til Wykes, specialist committee member and head of the school of mental health and psychological sciences at King’s College London, said: ‘Digital therapies may offer welcome additional help for people with a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. They may help enough to reduce the need for face-to-face contact be that in person or virtually. But we don’t know enough about who will improve and who will need extra help.

‘I am pleased that these interventions will be offered with therapist supervision to identify any additional support early and importantly that patients will have a choice of whether to use them or not.’

The technologies must achieve regulatory approval prior to their NHS use. This will include Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) conformity approval from NHS England, CE or UKCA marking and compliance with the NHS Talking Therapies digitally enabled therapies (DET) assessment criteria.

A consultation has begun on both sets of recommendations. Comments can be submitted until Wednesday 15 March 2023.

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