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'Digital therapies' may be used to bolster mental health care

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Guided self-help methods could be the next step Guided self-help methods could be the next step

Self-help through ‘digital therapies’ could be the next major step in mental health treatment as NICE urges developers to come forward with their ideas.

Guided self-help, which can track people’s mood or advise on breathing exercises for example, is recommended by NICE guidance to help treat mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

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As part of NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, NICE will assess digital applications or computer programmes designed to sit alongside more standard face-to-face forms of treatment.

NICE programme director DR Paul Chrisp said: ‘Digital interventions, along with the more traditional face-to-face therapy, can offer people with mild to moderate anxiety and depression a flexible, but guided way of helping them get better.

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‘The aim of this programme is to give more people access to digital therapies that have been assessed and shown to be as cost effective as face-to-face therapy. Digital therapies will not be used on their own, and patients should be reassured that they will still see therapists in person.’

Developers of therapy applications are being invited to submit their product to NICE to see if it meets the criteria to be entered into the new programme.

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An eligible product will be assessed by NICE for its content, how effective it is at treating anxiety and depression, how cost effective it is and whether it complies with technical NHS standards.

Over the next two years, NICE’s expert panel will review data from this evaluation in practice and decide if the digital therapy should be adopted for use across the whole of NHS England’s IAPT service.

Funding will also be made available from NHS England for digital therapies that are identified by the expert panel as promising, but need further development.

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