The Scottish Government has announced a ‘world-first’ deal with Big Health to provide digital therapeutics for anxiety and insomnia as part of its NHS services.

People across all 14 NHS Scotland Health Board areas will have instant access to Big Health’s digital therapeutics, which they can sign up for through self-referral or by visiting their GP.

Scotland is the first country in the world to implement fully digital solutions to provide help for anxiety and insomnia at no cost to the user, according to a joint statement from the Scottish government and Big Health.

The deal builds on the government’s Computerised CBT (cCBT) and Digital Mental Health programme, effectively scaling access to digital modules of care.

In October 2020 the Scottish Government made Daylight and Sleepio, Big Health’s accredited anxiety and insomnia tools, available across five NHS Health Board Areas.

To date, some 70 percent of Big Health users in Scotland experienced an improvement in their anxiety symptoms and gained an average of seven additional hours of sleep per week, the company said.

Kevin Stewart, mental wellbeing and social care minister, said: “Digital technologies have massive potential to help people manage and support their mental health in a way that feels right for them.

“We are working with NHS Scotland to combine traditional in-person services with technology enabled solutions, allowing us to reach people with the right treatment at the right time.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has only affirmed what we knew from the beginning – digital mental health is critical to help scale much-needed services and provide additional choice for people to manage their mental health.”

Dr Charlotte Lee, Big Health UK director, commended Scotland’s approach to digital care but added the UK needs to move away from a “postcode lottery” of care.

“Whilst this is great for people living in Scotland, we should move away from a postcode lottery for care,” she said.

“When treatment can be delivered digitally, it can cross borders and innovative healthcare systems in the UK should take a proactive approach to ensuring equity of access to a proven treatment.

“We believe people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with conditions such as insomnia and anxiety should be able to get instant, evidence-based help on the NHS instead of being given drugs. If Scotland can do it, the rest of the UK can too.”

In 2017 the Scottish government announced its 10-year mental health strategy. This included the prioritisation of cCBT, a programme for psychological self-help resources and expanded treatment options for patients.

The cCBT programme has increased the adoption of digital CBT solutions by more than 100 percent since 2017.

Big Health’s digital therapeutics are currently available through the NHS in England in two regions – North Hampshire and the Thames Valley.