The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will offer digital therapy training as part of its curriculum, marking the first offering of its kind from a UK university.

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is part of the NHS Long Term plan and aims to provide an additional 380,000 people per year to therapeutic services by 2023/24.

The implementation of IAPT in 2008 saw the appointments of the new psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP) role, designed to support people through self-help interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

According to SilverCloud Health, which has partnered with UCLan to offer digital therapeutics as part of its curriculum, 10,000 people have passed through IAPT training courses over the past 10 years.

To address the need for more PWPs and allow digital therapy to “be given parity with other approaches,” UCLan and SilverCloud Health will embed digital therapeutics in the university’s PWP training course.

UCLan’s Liz Kell, senior lecturer in psychological interventions and course lead for PWP training, said the course had been “unanimously well received”.

Kell added: “Internet-based treatment is now the mainstay of mental health service delivery models and it is important to recognise this important contribution to a PWPs toolkit of techniques. Working alongside the developers of these approaches is key to creating a competent workforce for the future.

“The course was unanimously well received and feedback has been positive, with trainees. commenting on how useful it was to understand the history and development of digital therapies, and to have time to explore which client groups may best benefit from this approach, including how it can be integrated into different ways of working.”

The next steps are to embed this in future UCLan PWP training and expand to cover additional therapy courses. The partnership also hopes to share its learning with other universities looking to do the same.

Trainee PWPs will be encouraged to use the self-care tools to support their own wellbeing and “gain a better understanding of the experiences of engaging with digital health,” SilverCloud said.

According to SilverCloud, its digital therapy services in IAPT cover more than 70% of NHS services and have provided therapy to more than 250,000 people.

Improving access to mental health support

Digital therapeutics have been developed to offer better access to self-help mental health services.

Last month, Londoners were given free tools for tackling stress, anxiety and depression through a partnership with Good Thinking and My Possible Self.

Meanwhile, ORCHA and charity Papyrus recently joined forces to provide young people at risk of suicide with access to clinically-proven, digital self-help tools.

SilverCloud’s Dr Lloyd Humphreys said: “This is an important development for the skilling-up of the next generation of PWPs. When one considers that the cohorts of people coming through training now could be delivering low intensity therapy in the year 2040 and beyond, it is essential we provide them the right competencies in the use of digital tools.

“SilverCloud is honored to be investing in the future of IAPT and working with UCLan which is a truly innovative and forward-looking University.”