NHS England issues call for innovative mental health apps

Special new £400,000 war chest set up to help find six to eight great new mental health apps. Could you be one such developer?

Posted 17 October 2016 by

NHS EnglandInnovators of digital technology that improves mental health can now apply for a share of a £400,000 fund to speed up the adoption of their product by the NHS.

NHS England says that it wants to use tech to better help the one in four of us who will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime – a problem it says can have a devastating effect on them and their families.

Six to eight innovations will be therefore chosen to take part in the NHS England funded Digital Development Lab being delivered by Leeds based mHabitat, a body set up to support digital innovation in the NHS and wider public sector from early stage discovery through to strategic planning.

Over  aspect of seven months the innovators chosen will have the chance to accelerate their technology towards potentially become endorsed and nationally promoted within the NHS.

The type of app encouraged to apply must:

  • already have an existing user base
  • be a standalone tool (i.e. not require integration with a clinical pathway)
  • not include advertising
  • and address one of the following: early intervention and improving access; parenting; perinatal health; transitions to adulthood; employment, education and training.

“There are lots of digital technologies claiming to help people manage their mental health, but it is hard for practitioners to assess their effectiveness and their safety for use,” pointed out Juliet Bauer, Director of Digital Experience at NHS England.

“Using this fund we can rapidly develop and scale currently available, evidenced based tools [so] more people can manage and care for their mental health using a set of high quality, evidence-based and safe digital tools with NHS endorsement,” she added.

Bauer said she and her team are particularly interested in tools that support the mental health of young people and families, tools that might include more self-care at home, managing conditions before they escalate and building mental resilience.

The idea is to also support NHS commissioners to be able to update or newly commission digital products for their population “with confidence”, she hopes.

The cost of mental ill health to the economy, NHS and society is £105bn a year, while the Mental Health Five Year Forward View calls for a “pivotal role” for digital technology in driving major changes to mental health services over the next five years, NHS England says.