NICE has conditionally recommended use of digital cognitive behaviour therapies (CBT) to support children and young people with mild to moderate anxiety.
Draft guidance published last week recommends that the technologies can be used with support from a mental health professional, while further evidence is generated on its efficacy.
NICE suggests five self-guided CBT-based technologies, which would be used as first-line treatment options. They include games, videos, and quizzes which can be accessed via mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
NICE interim director of medical technology said: ‘What is promising about all the technologies we have conditionally recommended today is the way they bring together digital interventions with clinical support.
Marie Simons, lay member of NICE’s independent medical technologies committee, suggested that ‘if digital support can be offered earlier than face to face treatment, this can give support and importantly validation to their feelings sooner’.
‘By driving innovations like these into the hands of clinicians we can improve care for patients and help the service recover following the pandemic,’ she added.
The draft consultation will be open until 18 November.
Meanwhile, a new report from the NIHR has warned GPs are forced to start young people on antidepressants against NICE guidelines, due to long waiting times for psychological therapies.
The analysis found that just one in four teenagers prescribed an antidepressant in England had visited a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
‘One in six had visited a general specialist children’s doctor (a paediatrician), and one in 25 had attended adult mental health services,’ the report added.
Just over half of teenagers’ antidepressant prescriptions were for depression (53%), and the second most common reason was anxiety (16%).
The report concluded: ‘Clinical guidelines stress the need to involve child and adolescent psychiatrists in decisions to use antidepressants in children and teenagers. We know this often does not happen.
‘Limited access to mental health services and a lack of child and adolescent psychiatrists seem to prevent it. Some GPs start prescribing to help young people in urgent need, which may be life saving if they are very depressed.’
A survey conducted by Pulse earlier this year revealed that 70% of GPs were providing mental health support outside of their competence to children because they could not get them seen by CAMHS in a timely manner.