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Role of digital recognised in Five Year Forward View for mental health

Today’s long-awaited report on mental health provides welcome recognition for the role of digitally enabled therapy, but online services need to be more widely available to realise their potential on a national scale.

The Mental Health Taskforce highlights the growing need for mental health treatment, and the relationship between physical and mental health. For example, the report states that only 15% of patients with diabetes receive mental health support, despite £1.8 billion of diabetes costs being related to poor mental health.

The report highlights striking variation in access to psychological therapy, with average waiting times ranging from six to 124 days in 2014/15, depending on location. Similarly, it recognises that access to therapy is required 24/7.

The recommendation that access to psychological therapy should be increased from 15% to 25% of the eligible population is therefore welcome. This increase represents an additional 600,000 adults each year by 2020/21. Increasing access to psychological therapies also has potential to help support the goal of keeping more people in employment which, in turn, has significant economic benefit.

However, new approaches to psychological care will be required to deliver the recommended 25% access target. The financial pressures on the NHS show no sign of abating, and delivery of the report’s 58 recommendations will be dependent on savings for reinvestment wherever possible.

Evidence-led online therapy, such as that provided by Ieso Digital Health, has a valuable role to play. But this will only be fully realised if NHS England recognise the full value of digital platforms, and adopts a national approach.

Barnaby Perks, chief executive of Ieso Digital Health commented: “Our online approach to psychological therapy delivers outcomes fully comparable to face-to-face treatment, but with the potential to reduce costs. In addition, people are able to access therapy at a time and place of their convenience, making treatment far more available for patients. We look forward to working with NHS England and other partners to maximise this potential across England as a whole.”

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