The UK’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has greenlit nine new digital therapies for patients with mental health illnesses to be used in the NHS. The recommendation includes six therapies for anxiety disorders and three for depression. The guidance announcement coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week May 15 – May 21, 2023.

Mental health services in England received a record 4.6 million referrals in 2022, up 22% from 2019. The new therapies, which use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) via an app or website, will give patients more options to access medical help and offer a personalised approach.

According to NICE, the digitally enabled therapies will free up clinician time and clinical resources. Digital therapies for depression and anxiety take an average of 90 mins and 4 hours respectively, whereas standard care takes between 8 and 10 hours.

The nine digitally enabled therapies recommended by NICE will require Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) approval and assessment from NHS England. They will also require a CE or UKCA mark approval before use. NICE said it will continue to collect further data on clinical and cost-effectiveness. The support from clinical data is especially important if digital therapeutics are to become a mainstay of the mental health sector.

Healthcare provision via mobile apps is becoming increasingly common as part of a swathe of digitisation across the NHS to reduce pressures. Clinical-focused apps have a predicted revenue-generating market of $3.9bn by 2030, according to GlobalData.

“We know NHS Talking Therapies services are in demand and people are facing waits of several weeks. A part of the solution could be the use of digitally enabled therapies recommended by our committee which could increase the number of people receiving the treatment they need sooner,” said Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE.

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“Every person seen by an NHS Talking Therapies clinician or practitioner is assessed so their needs can be fully understood. The choice of a digitally enabled therapy must be the right one for the individual, ensuring that they get the care they need.”