Draft guidance in the UK has provisionally recommended that digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) apps can be used within the NHS to treat children and young people with mild to moderate anxiety.
The proposal by health technology assessment (HTA) agency NICE covers five apps, which can be used – with the support of a mental health practitioner – while further evidence is generated to see if the benefits they claim are realised in practice. NICE has previously backed the use of digital CBT for young people with mild depression.
The move fits with goals in the NHS Long Term Plan to encourage the use of digital technology in the NHS, and also to help plug a treatment gap in mental health.
Last year, a report from think tank Future Care Capital urged the UK Government to invest in the digitisation of service provision for mental health to help reverse a chronic lack of support for the sector that had resulted in convoluted access pathways, long waiting lists, and poor long-term outcomes.
The five apps are:
- BfB Labs’ Lumi Nova: Tales of Courage, a digital therapeutic (DTx) in the form of a game for children aged seven to 12, which combined exposure therapy and psychoeducational content within an intergalactic role-playing game;
- SilverCloud’s ‘Space from’ series, a CBT range which targets 15 to 18-year-olds with symptoms of anxiety, low mood, or both, with online support from therapists;
- Online support and intervention for child anxiety (OSI), an internet-based, parent-led, and therapist-supported psychological intervention for children aged 5 to 12 years old with symptoms of anxiety;
- Online Social anxiety Cognitive therapy for Adolescents (OSCA), an internet programme of cognitive therapy for social anxiety in adolescents aged 14 to 18 years old; and
- Healios’ ThinkNinja CBT Bytesize, an app that contains psychoeducational, CBT-based content and clinician support for children and young people aged 11 years and older with anxiety or low mood, and related problems.
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