NHS England turns to digital for mental healthcare

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 becoming 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.


Pivotal role

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.


Rapid development

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.

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