Mental health digital innovators to apply for new £400k fund

Innovators of digital technology which improves people’s mental health can now apply for a share of a £400k fund to speed up the adoption of their product by the NHS.

Six to eight innovations will be chosen to take part in the NHS England funded Digital Development Lab being delivered by mHabitat.

Over seven months the innovators will have the chance to accelerate their technology towards potentially become endorsed and nationally promoted within the NHS.

One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime which can have a devastating effect on them and their families. The cost of mental ill health to the economy, NHS and society is £105bn a year.

The recent Mental Health Five Year Forward View forecast a pivotal role for digital technology in driving major changes to mental health services over the next five years.

There are already good examples of its use by NHS Choices, and there are a number of apps with a mental health theme. There is a large mental health community on social media and voluntary organisations report heavy demand on their digital services.

The recent Wachter review also said that successfully digitising the NHS was essential to achieve the triple aim of better health, better healthcare and lower cost.

Juliet Bauer, Director of Digital Experience at NHS England, said: “There are lots of digital technologies claiming to help people manage their mental health but it is hard for practitioners to assess their effectiveness and their safety for use.

“Using this fund we can rapidly develop and scale currently available, evidenced based tools. The Lab’s successes will mean more people can manage and care for their mental health using a set of high quality, evidence-based and safe digital tools with NHS endorsement.

“We’re particularly interested in tools that support the mental health of young people and families. This might include more self-care at home, managing conditions before they escalate and building mental resilience.  It also means NHS commissioners will be able to update or newly commission digital products for their population with confidence.”

The type of innovation encouraged to apply must: already have an existing user base; be a standalone tool (i.e. not require integration with a clinical pathway); not include advertising; and address one of the following: early intervention and improving access; parenting; perinatal health; transitions to adulthood; employment, education and training.

Successful applicants will benefit from:

  • Access to funds to accelerate their digital technology towards endorsement and adoption
  • Help to generate evidence of impact through evaluation tools and support
  • Access to mentoring on topics such as co-design, standards, regulation and implementation
  • Opportunity to share learning and support with a group of digital innovator peers.
  • Applicants to the Digital Development Lab will need to fill in an online application from which a shortlist will be created and then pitch to a group of digital mental health experts.

Accountable to the NHS England Mental Health Transformation Board, the Digital Development Lab is run by mHabitat in partnership with MindTech and Social Spider.

Victoria Betton, Director mHabitat, said: ‘We are delighted to be delivering the Digital Development Lab for NHS England. Along with our partners, we are looking forward to using our expertise to help promising digital technologies to be adopted more widely within mental health services and the NHS.’


  1. P Lewis says:

    Sounds like a good idea, just make sure that the digital solutions with on a Raspberry Pi 3 too (Has Bluetooth 4.1 LE) as well as Google / Apple phones etc, so we can keep out data out of the cloud if we so wish. With regards to Early Intervention e.g. Psychosis / bipolar. Personally I think e.g. Sleep trackers and other trackers,could provide quite a good early warning. And in the Traffic light system of the WRAP, could provide a bit more flexibility before the need for medication (move that to Amber??). Have mindfulness, blue blocker glasses etc. To give the patient a bit more choice.

  2. Mike Smith says:

    This is complete rubbish, fantasy health provision. We now have a fuller picture of why the Tory government – and the Blair government – deliberately refused to train sufficient doctors, nurses and clinical staff. It’s so as to foist this untested and patently totally unacceptable change to the NHS. It shows a total lack of understanding as to how mental health impacts on individuals and how they respond to treatment. Car production methods are fine for cars, they are a disaster for health and mental health outcomes.