The National Institute for Health and Social Care (NICE) has recommended that children and young people are offered digital cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to treat mild depression. 

The public body is advising that under 18s have access to CBT through smartphones, tablets and laptops to help them manage their mental health.

NICE believes digital services could mean children will avoid lengthy delays in care and also help reduce pressures on the NHS.

The draft recommendations also suggest that the “child or young person’s history, circumstances and maturity should also be considered” when prescribing digital therapies and the choice of treatment should be based on “clinical need and patient and carer preferences”.

Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said: “Digital and online interventions can play an effective and important role in treatment, particularly when backed up by face to face support.”

Digital CBT is already recommended for adults with mild depression, but it’s the first time NICE has recommended it for under 18s.

Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, added: “This is a positive step and offers two clear advantages. Firstly it will allow young people to access help more swiftly without having to go through conventional CAMHS pathways, and secondly, it is likely to prove beneficial to young people who find it hard to cope with treatment offered within clinic settings.

“However, there are question marks over how this can be made available via the NHS, so I look forward to hearing more detail in due course.”

The guidance is out for consultation until February 20.

In a separate story, NICE recommended in January 2018 that online and mobile app for depression, Deprexis, should be trialled on the NHS.