News 11 January

Recent Reports Demonstrate Vital Future Role for Digital Mental Health Services

NHS Long Term Plan and upcoming report from Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee make case for digital to enable greater access to mental health support

All young people should have timely access to mental health services and, as underlined by the NHS’s Long Term Plan, integrated digital services are well-placed to help the NHS pursue its preventative agenda as well as manage soaring demand, the country’s biggest provider of digitalised mental healthcare has said.

Ahead of the publication of a report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on Friday (January 11th) on its inquiry into mental health services for children and young people, which is expected to show that significant inequalities in provision remain across the country, Zoe Blake, CEO of XenZone, said embracing integrated digital therapy at scale was vital.

This would help to meet the growing need for timely and preventative mental health services for young people, address NHS workforce challenges and also support the Government’s integration agenda, with joined-up services – including community-based treatments – able to support more children and young people.

XenZone’s Kooth service, an anonymous online service aimed specifically at children and young people, is available free at the point of need in half of all NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England. Last year around 100,000 new users joined the Kooth community, with more than 1,700 young people logging on every day, demonstrating demand for accessible services and showing how support can be offered as needed.

But despite the progress in many areas, large parts of England still lack digital mental health services that young people can access easily. In the newly-published NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England has committed itself to a new target that by 2023/24, an additional 345,000 children and young people aged 0-25 will be able to access support via NHS funded mental health services.

Zoe Blake, CEO of XenZone, said:

“This report is important in highlighting the big challenge the NHS faces in meeting its aspirations around children and young people’s mental health.

“We firmly believe all young people deserve access to high-quality mental health services, digital or otherwise, that integrate into the wider care system, providing early intervention and response in a way that suits them.

“Our experience shows that the ‘digital natives’ of Generation Z are often more comfortable talking about mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or self-harm with qualified therapists via online services, like Kooth. These services also provide a near-immediacy of access at a time when waiting lists are rising and the mental health workforce crisis shows no signs of abating.

“Digital services are part of the solution to this workforce challenge, as by freeing therapists to work from wherever they happen to be, we’ve shown it’s possible to retain highly experienced and motivated staff within the mental health profession.”