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NHS shifts mental health focus to digital interventions.

NHS digital mental health intervention

In a recent article released by the NHS England to GPs, it’s been recommended that GPs suggest that certain mild-to-moderate mental health patients are signposted to wellbeing apps and digital interventions to prevent what they’re calling “potentially avoidable appointments”.

Designed to reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and appointment waiting lists, this new triage model is something that a number of practitioners have already been utilising to help with demand and give patients instant access to support.

Dr Ayan Panja has already been using the mental health web app, Leafyard, to triage patients while they’re awaiting further support on the NHS waiting lists.

“Now, there’s no miracle cure for severe mental health problems, and currently, as I speak, there are 1.5 million people waiting for mental health treatment in the UK, so the scale of the problem is huge. Leafyard works with you in order to change your thoughts and the only way to improve mental health is to have more control over your thoughts and also change them so that you can feel better. It is really a tool that is designed to help anyone who has any kind of mental health need, particularly mild or moderate.”

Jon Paul Davies, co-founder of Leafyard has said, “The waiting lists for NHS health services are from 12 to 18 months, depending on where you are in the country, so it’s not easy to get help. So we really have to redefine how these services are consumed, potentially through some kind of triage process.

“As a software company, can we make it easier for those people to consume a particular kind of help and service and leave the NHS and the GPs for the really the people who really need that kind of help?”

Given the increasing number of people who are being affected by stress, anxiety, and depression, especially post-pandemic and with the cost of living crisis, this is an issue that’s only going to get worse.

This latest advice seeks to provide a more proactive approach that empowers patients to help themselves. With stretched services and geographical inequalities when it comes to treatment availability, digital mental health and wellbeing interventions are increasingly becoming the only logical solution to deal with the mental health crisis in a safe and timely way.

Of course, any apps that are going to be prescribed or suggested by GPs will be subject to rigorous clinical testing by the NHS and other psychological experts for safeguarding reasons. This is something that Leafyard has already overcome, thanks to successful clinical trials by King’s College London, which concluded: “the app offers an exciting CBT-based platform in the Promote, Prevent, Detect and Treat spaces, against a GP waiting list of 11 months.”

Already, mental health web apps are in a prime position to assist GPs in reducing waiting lists and giving patients the urgent support they desperately need. This latest edict from the NHS to GPs is just further proof that digital healthcare inventions are the way forward, and that they’re here to stay.

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