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Digital literacy is hindering the adoption of digital interventions to support children’s mental health amid pandemic.

Survey of NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in England Key highlights:

  • Almost 4 out of 10 (36.36 percent) of CAMHS have not adopted any new digital mental health tools to support children in need of mental health support since the onset of COVID-19.
  • The majority (63.64 percent) of NHS CAMHS are signposting children and young people (CYP) to an online resource - rather than a proven digital intervention.
  • 45.4 percent of NHS CAMHS believe digital therapeutics have a role to play in early intervention support.

LONDON, Oct. 15, 2020, A survey of 135 NHS CCGs in England carried out by BfB Labs, a pioneer in the development of evidence-based digital therapeutics for CYP shows that almost 4 out of 10 NHS CCGs have not implemented any new digital therapeutics to support children’s mental health since the onset of COVID-19. A limited knowledge of available digital interventions, cost, and a lack of clinical evidence are the top three barriers for integrating new digital therapeutics.

The latest modelling by the Centre for Mental Health forecasts that as many as 1.5 million young people in England will need help with psychological difficulties as a direct consequence of COVID-19. This surge will leave hundreds of thousands of children without any mental health support as many CCGs were already struggling to provide support before COVID-19. Some of these children will already have existing mental health difficulties and may have been on a waiting list, but others will be seeking help for the first time.

“We need more to tackle the current status quo where postcode lotteries, high thresholds for care, and significant capacity issues are preventing timely access to support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The unique value of a regulated digital therapeutic is its scalability, location-agnostic accessibility, and anytime, anywhere availability via a mobile device.” says Manjul Rathee, CEO of BfB Labs.

BfB Labs is an award-winning pioneer using emergent technology for early intervention in young people’s mental health. The company recently announced it had received regulatory approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for Lumi Nova – the first mobile game for paediatric anxiety disorders that provides ongoing evidence. Lumi Nova has been funded by NHS England via the NHS Improvement’s SBRI Healthcare programme and developed in partnership with the University of Reading, and MindTech UK.

The NHS Long Term Plan emphasises the role of digital transformation in helping to enable CYP to access the care they need quickly and easily. However, the reality is very different and NHS fragmentation remains a significant factor limiting adoption and diffusion as survey highlights.

According to Manjul Rathee, CEO of BfB Labs “Even if a digital therapeutic has been approved by the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA), is CE marked, has demonstrated high levels of safety, efficacy, and has good economic data, this still does not guarantee widespread adoption. Multiple barriers still remain, including an individual organisation’s attitude to risk and difficulties identifying and evaluating appropriate interventions.”

With 75 per cent of CYP experiencing a mental health problem are unable to access any treatment at all. (Mental Health Foundation), BfB Labs survey also showed that 45.4% of NHS CCGs believe digital therapeutics have a role to play in early intervention support. Mobile technology can be integrated into community health care where a child does not meet the threshold required for treatment.

Early intervention really matters in young people’s mental health.  Untreated mental health issues can lead to life-long consequences.” says Manjul Rathee “We have a window now to prepare for what lies ahead. That means putting in place digital interventions that can scale access to evidence-based supports to enable those young people who need support to receive care quickly.