depressed person at computer

Digital treatments for depression conditionally approved by NHS body

Image credit: Dreamstime

Around 40,000 people in the UK could be offered apps designed to help them treat conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders and body dysmorphia.

Eight digital therapies have been “conditionally recommended” by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) while further evidence is generated.

One in six people in the UK report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week, according to NHS Digital.

The high demand for NHS talking therapies means that some people currently have to wait up to six weeks to access help.

Six technologies were conditionally recommended for helping adults with anxiety disorders. The Perspectives app was approved for those suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

For depression, the committee conditionally recommended the use of three online CBT programmes – Beating the Blues, Deprexis, and Space from Depression (Silvercloud) – as treatment options.

Finally, for post-traumatic stress disorder, iCT-PTSD and Spring were approved, and for social anxiety disorder, iCT-SAD.

Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE, said: “Our rapid assessment of these eight technologies has shown they have promise.

“Developed using tried and tested CBT methods, each one has demonstrated it has the potential to provide effective treatment to the many thousands of people who live with these conditions.

“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.”

Digital therapies offer an alternative way for people to access help and offer more flexibility around both time and location of treatment.

The medical technology advisory committee heard from clinical and patient experts as part of their consideration of the evidence for the eight technologies. The evidence included the positive impact of CBT on these conditions and how these technologies can improve access.

Elizabeth Mullenger, lay specialist member on the NICE committees, said: “Digital technology could transform the experience of people living with mental illnesses. It can be incredibly isolating to be on a long waiting list for in-person treatment. You might know that help is coming, you just don’t know when.

“Having access to a digital therapy could help prevent this lonely feeling. Sometimes people need support most in the middle of the night, or after a busy day at work, and it’s hard to know where to turn. Having access to digital therapy can give people the help they need, when they need it.”

In December, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin used e-tattoos to measure the emotional stress levels of patients.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles