National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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Nine treatment options to be made available for adults with depression or an anxiety disorder

Six digitally enabled therapies for adults with anxiety disorders and three for adults with depression have been recommended for use in the NHS while further data is gathered, NICE has said.

The launch of NICE’s final guidance coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week. The new digital treatment options use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques via an app or website and include the support and involvement of a NHS Talking Therapies clinician or psychological wellbeing practitioner.

Digital therapies offer an alternative way for people to access help in a way that may be more suited to their personal needs by offering flexibility around both time and location of treatment.

As the therapy is delivered via digital technology and needs less therapist time than standard care, this could free up clinical resources that could be used elsewhere in services to increase access or reduce waiting times.

Digitally enabled therapies for depression require on average 90 minutes of with a therapist. This compares with 8 hours each patient would receive with standard care.

Digitally enabled therapies for anxiety require on average 4 hours of clinician or practitioner time compared with 10 hours required for standard care.

How many more people will be able to be seen overall will depend on how many people opt for digitally enabled therapies.

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

In 2021-22, there were 527,094 referrals accessing NHS Talking Therapies for depression and anxiety services with a presenting complaint of anxiety and stress related disorders.

A formal assessment with an NHS Talking Therapies clinician or practitioner will take place prior to starting treatment to ensure the correct intervention is matched to both clinical needs and the person’s preferences.

Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation, at NICE, said:

“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.

“One of our priorities is to get the best care to people fast while at the same time ensuring value for money for the taxpayer – these digitally enabled therapies do both.

“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.”

Some of the digitally enabled therapies are already in use. The nine digitally enabled therapies recommended by NICE will require Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) approval, a completed NHS Talking Therapies for anxiety and depression digitally enabled therapies assessment from NHS England, and to have a CE or UKCA mark approval before they can be used by the NHS while further evidence is generated on their clinical and cost effectiveness.

NICE will review the evidence generated before carrying out a full assessment on the clinical and cost effectiveness of these interventions.


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