Hundreds of thousands of insomniacs and anxiety sufferers in Scotland can now get FREE therapy on their phones under NHS deal with app maker
- People in Scotland can download free apps for insomnia and anxiety
- Trials showed they helped 70 percent of users with their anxiety or sleep problem
- But it’s a ‘postcode lottery’, with the app only free in two parts of England
Hundreds of thousands of people suffering from insomnia and anxiety in Scotland can now download free therapy apps.
NHS officials north of the border have struck a deal to offer two different self-help programmes.
The apps will be one of the first forms of treatment offered alongside medicines to patients with anxiety and insomnia in Scotland.
But the supplier of the cognitive behavioral therapy apps challenged the ‘postcode lottery’ of patient care in the UK.
dr. Charlotte Lee, director of Big Health, said: ‘As the demand for mental health services continues to rise, innovative countries such as Scotland have focused on actually expanding access to digital medicine care.
“While this is great for the people who live in Scotland, we need to move away from a postcode lottery for care.
For anxiety — which affects about one in ten Britons in any given week — Daylight (left) includes exercises, such as training your brain to only worry at a certain time and reframing useless thoughts. Created for people suffering from insomnia, Sleepio (right) is a six-week program with a weekly 20-minute session with a virtual sleep expert and sleep tracking. One in six Britons has sleeping problems, but experts have warned the pandemic is pushing the figure to one in four
“If treatment can be delivered digitally, it could be cross-border and innovative healthcare systems in the UK need to take a proactive approach to ensure equal access to proven treatment.
“We believe that people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with conditions such as insomnia and anxiety should be able to get immediate, evidence-based help from the NHS rather than being given medicine.
She added: ‘If Scotland can do it, so can the rest of the UK.’
Under the deal with Scottish officials, all 14 NHS trusts north of the border can now offer their patients Daylight and Sleepio.
Patients who suffer from insomnia or anxiety can also register themselves, so that they do not have to visit the GP.
The two apps were created by Big Health, a company co-founded by University of Oxford sleep expert Professor Colin Espie.
Sleepio allows patients to determine how much sleep they need and provides support in calming their raging mind.
It is a six-week program that includes a 20-minute session with a virtual sleep expert once a week.
What is insomnia?
People with insomnia have trouble sleeping.
The problem, which affects one in six Britons, can usually get better if patients change their sleeping habits.
Symptoms include having trouble sleeping, waking up multiple times during the night, waking up early, and having trouble getting back to sleep.
It can be caused by stress, anxiety or depression, noise, a room that is too hot or too cold, an uncomfortable bed, shift work, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, as well as recreational drugs.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Insomnia can be short-lived – three months or less or long-term if it lasts longer than 12 weeks.
Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions with a therapist, which can help change thoughts and behaviors that keep people from sleeping.
GPs rarely prescribe sleeping pills because of concerns about their side effects and drug addiction.
Meanwhile, Daylight offers exercises to train your brain to worry only at a given moment and to reframe useless thoughts.
Studies have shown that more than 70 percent of people who use the apps experience improvements with their anxiety and insomnia.
One in six Britons has sleeping problems, often blamed on stress, anxiety and depression.
And nearly one in ten suffers from anxiety, according to charities.
This move makes Scotland the first country in the world to provide immediate free assistance to people with anxiety and insomnia.
The country’s government adopted new policies and services in 2017 as part of a 10-year plan to tackle mental health.
Before the nationwide rollout of the apps, they were piloted in five NHS health council areas in Scotland.
In the UK, the apps are currently only available on the NHS in North Hampshire and the Thames Valley.
Kevin Stewart, the Scottish Minister for Mental Welfare and Social Care, said: ‘Digital technologies have enormous potential to help people manage and support their mental health in a way that feels right to them.
“We are working with NHS Scotland to combine traditional personal services with technological solutions so that we can reach people with the right treatment at the right time.
“The Covid pandemic has only confirmed what we knew from the start: digital mental health is critical to scaling much-needed services and giving people additional choice to manage their mental health.
“After evaluating the effectiveness of Daylight and Sleepio, we are excited to launch these treatments nationwide and provide clinically validated solutions to those who need it most.”