min read
February 10, 2022

Doing more with digital treatments: three lessons learned with our NHS partners

Introduction to our series exploring how the NHS is doing more with digital treatments

At Big Health, we’re on a mission to help millions back to good mental health. To do this, we partner with the NHS to address the overwhelming demand for mental health support and relieve pressure on front line NHS staff. Together, we’re making always-accessible, gold-standard mental health treatment the norm.

Looking back over the pandemic we’ve learned that, despite these challenging times, our NHS partners are able to do more with digital treatments. We’ve learned it’s possible to:

  • Offer instant, equitable access to mental health treatment for millions
  • Meet the tsunami of mental health need with existing workforce
  • Improve patient outcomes whilst delivering in-year cost savings

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share a series of case studies exploring how our partners are meeting mental health needs, supported by our proven digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programmes, Daylight for anxiety and Sleepio for insomnia.

In them, we’ll showcase our approach, learning, and results, so you can see for yourself how our partnerships work in practice. See a sneak peek below.

Offering instant, equitable access to mental health treatment for millions of people

In partnership with Big Health, Scotland was the first country in the world to make digital therapeutics for anxiety and insomnia available nationally, no prescription necessary. Championing evidence-based, non-drug interventions, the Scottish Government commissioned Sleepio and Daylight across its population of 5 million people.

Within a week of launching our digital CBT programmes, we saw over 1,000 patients start therapy, showing the scalability and accessibility of digital CBT, especially for those who may not traditionally reach out to the NHS. Our position is echoed by the Scottish Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart:

Digital mental health is critical to help scale much-needed services and provide additional choice for people to manage their mental health. After assessing the effectiveness of Daylight and Sleepio, we are pleased to launch these treatments nationwide, providing clinically validated solutions for those who need it most.

Kevin Stewart, Scottish Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care

Meeting the tsunami of mental health need with existing workforce

There’s a well-understood link between insomnia and mental and physical health. Disturbed sleep became a significant problem in North Hampshire during the pandemic, with many distressed patients turning to their GPs for support. Having to rely on short term medication that didn’t tackle the underlying issues, local PCNs quickly identified a treatment gap.

North Hampshire PCNs made Sleepio available to their entire patient population immediately without requiring additional personnel, in a project that the Health Service Journal later recognised as a leading mental health innovation in 2021. 24/7 access to tailored, clinically-validated treatment without waiting times made a huge difference to patients: 81% reported improved sleep after only two sessions. GP confidence in their patients’ recovery also improved. One practitioner reported:

Knowing that Sleepio is tailored to the individual… gives me more confidence that they will be successful in managing their insomnia. I am also more confident as I know I am suggesting something that will be tailored to their needs.

Improving patient outcomes whilst delivering in-year cost savings

Funded by Innovate UK and the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, Big Health and Thames Valley NHS organisations partnered to mobilise direct access digital therapeutics.

Patient outcomes were strong at scale — 8 in 10 poor sleepers saw improvements and at the same time, independent health economic analysis showed that Sleepio saved money by reducing GP appointments and prescription costs. Dr John Pimm, Clinical and Professional Lead, Buckinghamshire Psychological Therapies Pathway, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said:

These results highlight the impact that is made possible through collaborative partnerships across primary care and mental health. Scaling up high potential digital therapeutics like Sleepio offers an exciting opportunity to provide both improved patient outcomes and economic benefits to the wider healthcare system.

Hear More From Big Health

We’re headlining HTN’s Digital Primary Care Conference on 2 March 2022. Come and join us. We’d love to see you there.

Talk to us about our time-limited offer for partner NHS organisations between now and 31 March 2022. Email Ushma Baros, Partnerships Manager, for details:

About Big Health

Big Health was founded in 2010 by Peter Hames and Professor Colin Espie, world-renowned clinical psychologist, and Professor at the University of Oxford.

Daylight and Sleepio administer evidenced-based CBT in a fully digital format, effectively providing non-drug alternatives for sleep and mental health. Gold-standard randomised controlled trials (RCTs) showed that 71% of patients who used Daylight achieved remission from anxiety and 76% of patients who used Sleepio achieved clinically significant sleep improvements1,2.

1. Carl, J. R., Miller, C. B., Henry, A. L., Davis, M. L., Stott, R., Smits, J. A., … & Espie, C. A. (2020). Efficacy of digital cognitive behavioral therapy for moderate‐to‐severe symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder: A randomised controlled trial. Depression and Anxiety, 37(12), 1168-1178

2. Espie, C. A., Kyle, S. D., Williams, C., Ong, J. C., Douglas, N. J., Hames, P., & Brown, J. S. (2012). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of online cognitive behavioural therapy for chronic insomnia disorder delivered via an automated media-rich web application. Sleep, 35(6), 769-781.

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