NHS England urged to commission e-mental health services nationally

What will the NHS Long Term Plan mean for mental health?

The NHS Confederation Mental Health Network has called on NHS England to adopt a national commissioning programme for e-mental health services.

A new report on the adoption of digital technology in the mental health sector published today by Rebecca Cotton, director of policy at the Mental Health Network, concluded that digital technology could help deliver improvements in the service if harnessed quickly.

The report, which was informed by research in Australia and the US, recommended the adoption of an Australian-style digital service for youth mental health, eheadspace, which provides online and telephone support and counselling to young people aged 12–25 via a national platform.

‘The Australian experience demonstrates the value of nationally commissioned initiatives in
the field of e-mental health. Taking eheadspace as an example, it would be hard to see such a service being appropriately and efficiently commissioned by all 31 local Primary Health Networks in the country. Currently, there is no equivalent portal in the UK where young people could access NHS advice and support from clinicians. It is recommended that this is considered,’ said the report.

Other recommendations include expanding NHS England’s Global Digital Exemplars programme and the development of a national vision for digital mental health. It also called on NHS workforce and development strategy to considers the impact of digital technology on the health service and urged providers to consider how best to leverage digital platforms when redesigning services.

Cotton said mental health services in the UK were facing unprecedented challenges and that NHS England and others had a critical role to play in making resources available to support widespread adoption of digital solutions.

‘Time is pressing. The opportunity is here to capitalise on the potential digital technology offers us. We can ensure more people have access to high-quality treatment, advice and support. We can ensure more people have a positive experience of using mental health services and are empowered to take control of their own recovery,’ she said.