News /
min read /
October 13, 2021

Scotland is first country to offer free digital therapies to every adult


THE Scottish Government has announced that all Scottish adults will now have access to "digital therapeutics" for anxiety and insomnia as part of their NHS service.

It means that Scotland has become the first country to implement fully digital solutions that provide instant help for anxiety and insomnia nationwide at no cost.

The "digital therapeutics" are digital versions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) first-line treatment for anxiety and insomnia.

The programmes come from US-based digital therapy company Big Health that offers non-drug alternatives for mental health treatment.

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The Daylight programme for anxiety and Sleepio for insomnia are self-referral programmes that can be accessed online or by visiting your GP.

READ MORE: Young Scots forced to wait eighteen months for specialist mental health help

In October 2020, the Scottish Government made Daylight and Sleepio available across five of the 14 NHS health boards. To date, nearly 70% of Big Health users in Scotland experienced an improvement in their anxiety symptoms and gained an average of seven additional hours of sleep per week.

Mental wellbeing and social care minister Kevin Stewart MSP (below) said: "Digital technologies have massive potential to help people manage and support their mental health in a way that feels right for them. We are working with NHS Scotland to combine traditional in-person services with technology-enabled solutions, allowing us to reach people with the right treatment at the right time.”

“The Covid-19 pandemic has only affirmed what we knew from the beginning – 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.”

The National: Kevin Stewart MSP

In 2017, the Scottish Government announced a decade-long commitment to mental healthcare, establishing new policy and clinical services focused on improving mental health access and outcomes.

Big Health UK director Dr Charlotte Lee said: “As demand for mental health services continues to rise, innovative countries like Scotland have focused on expanding access to care through digital approaches.

"By increasing the options for evidence-based mental health help at the point of need, Scotland is the only country to truly exploit the potential for digital therapeutics. We are proud to expand our service in Scotland to support the Scottish Government’s world-leading mental health strategy.”

READ MORE: Men’s mental health project given £100k in extra funding

Big Health was co-founded by Professor Colin Espie, a Scotsman, world-renowned clinical psychologist, and professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford.

Daylight and Sleepio administer evidenced-based cognitive behavioural therapy in a fully digital format, effectively providing non-drug alternatives for sleep and mental health.

During the COVID-19 public health emergency, Sleepio and Daylight are being made available as treatments for insomnia disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), respectively, without a prescription. Sleepio and Daylight have not been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia disorder and GAD, respectively.

1. Qaseem, A., Kansagara, D., Forciea, M. A., Cooke, M., & Denberg, T. D. (2016). Management of chronic insomnia disorder in adults: a clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 165(2), 125-133.2. Riemann, D., Baglioni, C., Bassetti, C., Bjorvatn, B., Dolenc Groselj, L., Ellis, J. G., … & Spiegelhalder, K. (2017). European guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia. Journal of Sleep Research, 26(6), 675-700.3. Wilson, S., Anderson, K., Baldwin, D., Dijk, D. J., Espie, A., Espie, C., … & Sharpley, A. (2019). British Association for Psychopharmacology consensus statement on evidence-based treatment of insomnia, parasomnias and circadian rhythm disorders: an update. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(8), 923-947.4. King’s Technology Evaluation Centre. (2017, November 9). Overview: Health app: SLEEPIO for adults with poor Sleep: Advice. NICE. 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 behavioral therapy for chronic insomnia disorder delivered via an automated media-rich web application. Sleep, 35(6), 769-781.6. 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 generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Depression and Anxiety, 37(12), 1168-1178.

DOC-3046 Effective 11/2023