Friday, 19 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

UK charity launches new initiative to help people access digital mental health tools

UK charity, Future Care Capital (FCC) has launched two new tools to accelerate access to reliable and effective digital mental health tools.

One being the first-ever commissioning tool to help medical professionals and commissioners better understand what digital mental health tools are available for the patients in their care, and the other is a new public guide to digital mental health tools, helping members of the public understand what digital support is available for their specific needs.

Both tools will help to provide a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of available technology, resulting not just in the accelerated prescription of effective and reliable digital mental health tools, but patients being empowered to make better choices when independently choosing the right digital mental health tools for their individual needs. Whilst these tools may not reduce hidden mental health wait lists, they can help patients to better cope with poor mental health whilst they await treatment. 

The release of these tools comes as a new analysis from FCC reveals that people struggling with their mental health are left stuck in limbo on ‘hidden’ NHS waiting lists, with 1 in 4 patients (24%) waiting more than 90 days between their first and second appointments for NHS Talking Therapies (previously known as IAPT) treatment – a service that provides a series of psychotherapy sessions to adults with conditions like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

These alarming figures also highlight the growing issue in the wait for mental health treatment. The number of people waiting for more than 90 days for their second appointment in the last year has in fact risen by 30% since pre-pandemic.

The latest NHS figures from October 2022 indicate that 13,599 people were waiting over 90 days for their second Talking Therapy appointment. This is especially concerning as extensive waits for treatment found to have a significant impact on people’s lives, with experts warning that excessive waits between sessions can impact recovery from mental health conditions, and sometimes, result in ‘some cases spiral into a mental health crisis.’

Also released today, a new report from FCC highlights not only the role of digital mental health tools in supporting those waiting for treatment but the urgent need to improve the way in which these tools are accessed.

FCC spoke to over 500 people who have struggled with mental health and have used digital tools for support. 87% of respondents revealed that they are now relying on smartphone apps for their mental health, with almost a third (31%) of respondents adding that they decided to use digital tools because they did not want to wait for face-to-face support.

Crucially, the new report highlights the need to improve both the way in which people access these tools and how medical professionals recommend them, with users saying that they are more than twice as likely to have found a digital mental health tool on social media (33%) than through their GP (13%). 

Dr Lauren Evans, Director of Research and Innovation at Future Care Capital, said:

“Digital mental health tools can be a really effective way to help people cope with poor mental health, but there is an urgent need to improve the way in which people find them. Our report shows that people are twice as likely to find this type of support via social media – which is not a trusted source of information – than via a medical expert.

“We need to provide the public, GPs, and healthcare professionals with guidance around mental health tools, to help reduce the possibility of the wrong tools being accessed. Whilst digital mental health tools are not the only solution for those experiencing mental health struggles, they are a viable solution. If we can guide people to the right digital mental health tools, then they will have improved outcomes.” 

Julie Bentley, Chief Executive at Samaritans, said:

“At Samaritans, we want to see individuals have a range of mental health support options at their fingertips. Now more than ever, the increase in digital offerings is widening the access to mental health support, which can be used by hard-to-reach communities; or those who may struggle to open up to their friends, family or GPs. We must now find ways to support people to find the tools that will help them and ensure that support they use is effective and appropriate.”

Future Care Capital (FCC) is an independent charity shaping the future of health and social care. To access the report and find out more about the commissioning tool, please visit: https://futurecarecapital.org.uk/.

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