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NICE conditionally backs digital therapies for treating depression and anxiety


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Depressed man
Image source: Mis

Eight digitally enabled therapies to treat depression and anxiety disorders in adults have been conditionally recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in new draft guidance.

It has begun a consultation on its decision to conditionally recommend the therapies, which address disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and body dysmorphia.

Each of them includes the support and involvement of an NHS talking therapies clinician and uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques.

The eight therapies have been put before the NICE medical technology advisory committee and are conditionally recommended while further evidence is generated. They are the latest early value assessments to have been undertaken using a new rapid assessment process that seeks to identify promising medical technology for rapid deployment into the NHS.

NICE said that combined, the therapies have the potential to help more than 40,000 people.

Common problems

One in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week in England, according to NHS Digital, and there is high demand for NHS talking therapies, with some people currently waiting up to six weeks to access help. Digital therapies provide a way to get help with flexibility around the time and location of treatment.

NICE said the digital therapies, some of which are already in use, are conditionally recommended for use only following a formal assessment with an NHS talking therapies therapist, as they may not be the right choice for everyone.

Mark Chapman, interim director of medical technology and digital evaluation at NICE, said: “Our rapid assessment of these eight technologies has shown they have promise. Developed using tried and tested CBT methods, each one has demonstrated it has the potential to provide effective treatment to the many thousands of people who live with these conditions.

“We want these new treatment options to be available for people to use as quickly as possible and we also want to make sure they are clinically effective and represent good value for the NHS. The additional evidence collected during this period will help us do that.

“We also want to hear what people involved in this area think – both clinicians and the people who will be using these digital technologies. We know CBT can work well for many people and we know that digitally enabled technology can help the NHS get support to people faster.”

Details of options

The technology conditionally recommended for helping adults with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is Perspectives with help from a high intensity therapist trained in treating BDD.

For generalised anxiety symptoms or unspecified anxiety disorder NICE has recommended Beating the Blues and Space from Anxiety (SilverCloud) with support provided by a psychological wellbeing practitioner or high intensity therapist.

The technologies for PTSD are iCT-PTSD and Spring with support from a high intensity therapist trained in treating the condition.

For social anxiety disorder it is iCT-SAD with support provided by a high intensity therapist.

For depression, the committee conditionally recommended the use of three online CBT programmes: Beating the Blues, Deprexis, and Space from Depression (Silvercloud) as treatment options.

The technologies must achieve regulatory approval prior to their NHS use. This will include Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) conformity approval from NHS England, CE or UKCA marking and compliance with the NHS Talking Therapies digitally enabled therapies (DET) assessment criteria.

A consultation has now begun on both sets of recommendations. Comments can be submitted via until Wednesday 15 March 2023.

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