More than 300,000 people suffering with mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression have now been treated through innovative digital mental therapy programmes developed as a result of a partnership between Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and SilverCloud Health, the world’s leading digital mental health company.
The collaboration between SilverCloud and the mental health and community trust is at the heart of the development of a suite of digital programmes accessible by patients online and a template for digital health delivery for the NHS in England.
The programmes are now incorporated in more than 75% of NHS IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) services, reflecting Berkshire Healthcare ’s position as one of a handful of NHS mental health trusts announced as a “Global Digital Exemplar” by NHS England for transforming patient care and engagement through new technology.
As part of recovery support from Berkshire Healthcare, Estelle received digital mental therapy through selected SilverCloud programmes after having to take six months off from a senior management position with a FTSE100 company with anxiety and depression caused by stress.
How SilverCloud Health programmes helped Estelle recover from anxiety and depression
It was the Christmas holiday in 2015 when Estelle realised something was not right. Looking forward to relaxing and recharging over the break she found frustratingly that she was not able to sleep.
She had recently been suffering aches and pains but her sleeplessness developed out of the blue. Two months later she went to work and “hit the wall”.
Estelle, at the time a senior manager in a high profile FTSE100 company, said: “I opened my email inbox and thought ‘I can’t process any of this’.”
After consulting the company’s employee assistance service, she was then signed off for two weeks by her GP, but eventually was off work for eight months as she recovered from acute stress.
Through her GP she was put in touch with the Talking Therapies service at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and given a telephone assessment by a psychological wellbeing practitioner.
As part of her treatment she was then given access to SilverCloud digital therapy to help her manage anxiety and depression. The programme contains helpful tools and content modules that include techniques on how to get motivated during periods of low mood, how to challenge negative thoughts and how to manage worry.
The mother-of-two said: “My only previous encounter with an NHS provided service was a visit to A&E when it was bursting at the seams. I was nervous of being treated through an online service but I was blown away by it, it was very user friendly, providing bite-size chunks of information and the tone was not at all patronising. I liked the fact that I could dip in and out of a module and revisit if necessary.
“It offered a flexible approach and I could use the SilverCloud Health service on a mobile and listen to it while sitting in a cafe or by a river. I found the modules extremely easy, discreet and handy to use and there was no need to travel to or attend a face-to-face session, and the service was available on my mobile at any time of the day.”
Estelle returned to the SilverCloud Health programmes for a period in 2018 when she faced a sudden cluster of stressful events, including changing jobs, moving house and the loss of a very close relative.
She believes free online therapy should be much more widely available, adding: “The programmes are available for people who are quite ill but free online services supported with professional help should be available to everyone so that issues can be nipped in the bud, rather than people getting to the stage where they are being pulled back from more serious illness.
“If you have a scratchy throat, you can buy paracetamol tablets very cheaply in a supermarket. Why isn’t there the same easy availability for help for common mental health issues?”
Psychologists and supporting psychological wellbeing practitioners welcome its clinical success, saving on resource – four to six times as many people can be supported through SilverCloud – and reduced cost, and its reduction of relapse.
Judith Chapman, Development Director at Berkshire Healthcare, said: “Our approach to developing digital therapy in collaboration with SilverCloud Health is very successfully meeting the needs of patients. They do not have to wait for support and can start their recovery journey quickly, with excellent clinical outcomes within the challenges of budget constraints and with reduced constraints on accommodation that would otherwise be required for clinical space.
“I would like to see what is available in Berkshire, available to people across the UK.”
Dr Lloyd Humphrey, Head of Europe, SilverCloud Health, said: “Digital mental therapy has come of age, it is no longer a question of the effectiveness of this mode of treatment but more ‘how can we provide access to the whole population’. SilverCloud has the largest evidence-base of any digital therapeutic approach and has been shown to improve mental health even after 12 months following discharge. The outcome and impact is unprecedented and we hope to reach even more people through our scalable approach and working with the NHS and their patient-centered initiatives, such as the NHS App.”