Nationwide access to digitally-enabled therapy can end postcode lottery and bring big wins for mental health

Nationwide access to digitally-enabled therapy can end postcode lottery and bring big wins for mental health
  • Long waits for psychological therapies can exacerbate mental health problems and result in poorer outcomes
  • Digitally-enabled mental health care can ‘load balance’ supply and demand across the country and take the pressure off struggling services

Rob Brougham, UK MD of Ieso Digital Health, the UK’s largest provider of digitally-enabled, evidence-based mental health care responds to the BBC’s report highlighting issues in IAPT performance for the first half of 2018. Rob Brougham says:

“Effective national coordination of digital mental healthcare services could eliminate the geographical inequalities in mental healthcare access and outcomes highlighted in the BBC’s report.” says Rob Brougham, UK MD of Ieso Digital Health, responding to the BBC’s analysis of the NHS IAPT performance for the first half of 2018.

"The introduction of the ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ programme (IAPT) is one of the most important system-wide initiatives in the history of mental healthcare. Thanks to the vision of Professor David Clark and other early advocates of the programme it has ensured that millions of patients in England suffering from life debilitating mental illnesses[1] have benefited from what is widely regarded as one of the very best psychological therapies programmes in the world Through IAPT, outcomes are systematically recorded, and therapists are rigorously supported in delivering evidence-based, protocolised care.

Nonetheless, there is considerable scope for improvement, as IAPT still only meets an estimated 15% of the need for common mental health problems in adults[2]. Significant geographical differences exist, as highlighted in the BBC’s report. Longer waiting times are statistically associated with poorer outcomes and this has been highlighted in a landmark study by Ieso along with researchers from the University of Cambridge, King’s College London and the Vanderbilt University which was published in the BJPsych Open this month[3]. The longer a mental health condition persists, the harder it is to treat, and the costlier treatment becomes.

Digitally-enabled solutions, such as Ieso’s advanced technology platform which can link patient and therapist regardless of where they are in the country, can ‘load balance’ supply and demand across the country and can tackle problematic capacity and quality issues quickly and effectively.

To bring these benefits to more patients, companies like Ieso Digital Health need to sell individually to hundreds of different CCGs and NHS Trusts. That’s a slow process and means that only patients in certain parts of the country can access our services at present, so the geographic differences persist.

A simple solution would be to create a national tariff and centralised procurement for solutions such as Ieso’s, that can deliver consistently across the country. Deploying this method in parallel with the current locally focussed approach will deliver the best of both worlds, ensuring that more people can benefit from access to IAPT services that meet their needs.

Ieso Digital Health’s highly scalable solution is delivering on the promise of digital health, creating cost savings, driving better access, better outcomes and a more engaging and convenient experience for individuals living with a mental health condition.”

[1] - NICE Guidelines Depression & Anxiety May 2018
[2] - NICE Guidelines Depression & Anxiety May 2018
[3] - BJPsych Open. 2018 Sep; 4(5): 411–418

Published 23 Oct 2018