UK government to invest in digital mental health tools

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a multi-million pound investment in digital tools to help improve mental health support.

A £67.7m funding package will enable people who are worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues to go online, check their symptoms and, if needed, access digital therapy right away rather than have to wait weeks for a face-to-face appointment. Follow-up face-to-face sessions will be offered as necessary.

Digitally assisted therapy has already proved successful in other countries, the government said.

The commitment coincided with the government’s response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health report, which confirms that NHS England will expand its delivery of digitally enabled mental health services.

NHS England has already produced a strategy to improve mental health care through digital technology by 2020, for example by ensuring health records are fully interoperable and increasing the number of NHS accredited apps.

There are plans to develop six digital tools, most with a particular focus on children and young people’s mental health, for inclusion in an online library of digital apps for health to be launched by April 2017.

“Digital services have the potential to transform the way mental health services are delivered by allowing people to check their symptoms, be triaged online and receive clinically-assisted therapy over the internet, when this is clinically appropriate for the person,” the government said. “These treatments have been tested in other countries and they work. In the right cases, they can offer access to treatment far quicker than traditional services.”

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