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Mental health apps should not be used, experts argue

12 October 2015

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There is no proof that 85% of depression treatment apps that have been accredited by the NHS actually work, and they should be removed from the NHS library, two experts have argued.

Until such time as evidence is forthcoming on the clinical effectiveness of these apps, and they have been properly evaluated, they should be removed from the NHS apps library, say Simon Leigh and Steve Flatt, of, respectively, the Management School at the University of Liverpool, and Liverpool Psychological Therapies Unit Community Interest Company.

However, the NHS seal of approval may falsely reassure patients, especially as one in 10 patients with mental health issues in England is now waiting more than a year before getting any form of treatment, the pair stated.

Of the 27 mental health apps that are currently listed in the NHS library, 14 are for depression and anxiety but only four provide scientific proof that they work when used by patients, and only two of them have been properly evaluated for clinical effectiveness.

“As such, confidence in, and the validity of, the claims made by apps that fail to apply such metrics must be considered as low at best, suggesting that the true clinical value of over 85% of NHS accredited mental health apps is at present impossible to determine,” stated the authors in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health.