Beyond drugs – recognition for NHS digital therapy for insomnia

A ground-breaking project to help people who struggle to sleep has won national recognition.

The North Hampshire initiative brings together the local NHS and the developers of the “Sleepio”, a digital therapeutic from Big Health. The partnership means that patients can access - free through self referral and on prescription - digital support allowing them to access evidenced-based non-drug therapies for insomnia.

Early results are hugely encouraging, with many users reporting better sleep, less stress, and overall improvements to physical and mental health. As a result, the partnership has been shortlisted for the prestigious national awards run by the influential Health Service Journal (HSJ), in the “mental health innovation” category.

Just a few of the patient stories can be seen here. Insomnia is a common problem causing frustration and poor health for millions – it is thought to affect around 1 in 10 people.

Sleepio is a personalized six-week sleep improvement program which helps people to clear their mind, improve sleep, and have better days.

The program uses cognitive behavioral therapy, and has gone through rigorous evaluation for safety and efficacy. In 12 randomised controlled trials, Sleepio was proven to help participants fall asleep 54% faster, spend 62% less time awake at night, and have 45% better functioning the next day.

Since Sleepio was made available for GPs to prescribe in North Hampshire on October 1 2020, more than 1,000 people have been supported virtually. To date, 81% people who completed at least two sessions saw an improvement in their insomnia symptoms.

Dr Tim Cooper, Basingstoke GP and the local NHS lead for the project, said: “One of the many problems we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic was how it affected people’s sleep – we frequently see people in our surgeries who are suffering the effects of poor sleep not just on their physical health, but on their sense of wellbeing.

“By working with the team at Sleepio we are able to direct people to a proven treatment which they can access instantly, around the clock. This is radically different to our previous options which mostly relied on short term medication, and which didn’t tackle the underlying issues which were causing such distress. Our teams across North Hampshire are excited to build on this early success, and it is tremendous to see how patients, when given the tools they need, can take back control of their mental health. “

Big Health UK Director Dr Charlotte Lee added: “We are proud of our partnership with the NHS in North Hampshire to provide non-drug alternatives for mental health. As Covid-19 has increased the access gap for mental health treatment, partnerships with innovative organisations like the NHS in North Hampshire and the local primary care practices have provided much needed, de-stigmatised treatment at scale."