Dr Julian Nesbitt has created a digital network of mental health professionals – all of which can be accessed via the Dr Julian app – with a view to ensuring speedier access to services. It’s an innovation that reached the final of the first ever Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest, and here he tells us more about it.

Tell us a little about what your innovation does.

We connect patients to our network of fully vetted, qualified and online trained mental health counsellors, cognitive behavioural therapists and psychologists with video/audio/instant message appointments via our app and web app.

What gave you the idea for your product?

Working as an A&E doctor I was increasingly concerned and frustrated seeing the number of people in mental health crisis who informed me they were on waiting lists to speak to a therapist but had not yet started their appointments.

On seeing the likes of Uber transform the transport market, I was inspired to think about a possible solution.

There was good evidence that using a video link was equally as effective at dealing with mental health issues as traditional face-to-face services. Video therapy was being used but mainly in an unstructured and unregulated way.

I therefore decided to create a platform with good clinical governance and regulation at its heart that could help the NHS to deal with the huge burden of mental health issues.

I also wanted to empower patients, giving them the choice of who they want to see, when, how and where.

We have launched an app that matches patients to the right therapists for them given the issue they need help with, their language and the type of therapy that is right for them.

They can then have an appointment from anywhere with internet access, and from the comfort of their own home 24/7. Utilising an online system really increases efficiency as the therapists can work from home and breaks down any capacity/postcode barriers.

How have you got to where you are now?

We launched with an initial iPhone app in September 2017 and now we have a web app (launched in December 2018) and Android app.

We first trialled the product in a trust in Thurrock, and showed a recovery rate of 70-80% as compared to the NHS average of below 50%.

With this, we were able to speak to other trusts that are now using the service and scaling up the model.

Why did you decide to enter the health start-up space?

To solve a huge need.

Have you faced any barriers?

One of the biggest barriers was that the NHS is very segregated, with no national system for Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT).

Why did you decide to enter the Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest?

It was an opportunity to help increase awareness of our company and brand. It was a good format and interesting to be in competition in the heats.

Looking to the future, what do you hope your product will achieve and what’s the next step in achieving that goal?

We are currently being used in three NHS trusts and are now gearing up for national expansion having undergone trials showing a 70-80% recovery rate and great patient satisfaction.

We are now integrated with NHS systems for seamless transfer of data. Our next steps are continuing our recruitment drive and continuing to engage with NHS trusts to use our services.

We are also entering the child and secondary care markets as well as providing corporate services for company employees and working with insurance companies and other referral organisations.

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the health start-up space?

Never give up, speak the language of who you are speaking to, and make sure your product actually solves a problem that really exists – don’t spend lots of money creating something that no one needs or wants.

The Digital Health Rewired Pitchfest competition gives innovators from across health and social care the chance to pitch their idea to sector leaders. Over 70 start-ups applied to take part in the 2019 event, sponsored by Silver Buck, with the final taking place at Digital Health Rewired on 26 March. The competition will run again at the 2020 event, taking place on 3-4 March at Olympia National in London.