Digital therapy selection

NHS England is working with NICE to support a new digitally enabled therapy assessment programme, where up to 14 digital therapy products will be assessed for use in NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services by 2020. This will help expand provision of psychological therapies, as well as improving access to digital services, both goals set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

Digitally enabled therapy is psychological therapy that is provided online or through mobile applications, with the support of a therapist. There is evidence to show that these therapies can achieve comparable outcomes to face-to-face therapy, when the same therapy content is delivered in an online format which allows much of the learning to be achieved through patient self-study, reinforced and supported by a suitably trained therapist, and also that many people prefer to access therapy in this way.

The process

The aim of this programme is to find good quality, evidence-based digital therapy packages for use in IAPT services. This will be achieved through a three stage process:

  • Products will be selected in accordance with NICE’s selection and prioritisation criteria, following advertisement and an open application process via NICE’s portal.
  • Next NICE will lead an objective, transparent assessment process and produce an ‘IAPT assessment briefing’ (IAB) which a panel of impartial experts, including experts by experience, will review.
  • Products which are deemed by the panel to meet the necessary standards, which relate to effectiveness, content, digital standards and resource impact, will then progress to the third phase, during which they will be evaluated in practice by IAPT services for up to two years. The evaluation will consider performance and activity data as well as feedback from therapists and service users. A report on each of the products will be published following this evaluation phase. This report will provide information to services which will help them to select high quality, evidence-based products, which are cost-effective and achieve good outcomes for those who wish to access therapy in this way.

Some products which are assessed as requiring further development in order to meet standards for use in the NHS will be eligible to apply for funding to complete this work (please note this is currently subject to NHS England approval which is expected to be confirmed Summer 2017). It is NHS England’s intention to allocate this funding through a competed grants process, which will be advertised via www.fundingcentral.org.uk.

Services involved will be provided with free access to the digital therapy products they are testing, and will receive support with implementation.

NHS England is managing all stages of this project, which comprises selection and assessment of technologies, supporting development of technologies and testing technologies in practice. NICE is responsible for the technology supplier selection and assessment, the IAPT assessment briefing report and for the production of the final evaluation for each digital therapy product.

Further information and resources