Woman struggling to sleep

Digital app to replace insomnia treatment on NHS

A digital app could replace sleeping pills as a treatment for insomnia under new NHS guidance.

This follows a recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), indicating that the app’s six-week treatment programme could help save the NHS money and reduce prescriptions of dependency-forming drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone.

The proposed app uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to give users tailored cognitive behavioural therapy, with NICE’s analysis showing the app could be more beneficial than current NHS treatments.

NICE predict that approximately 800,000 people could benefit from the app in England alone, with around one in three people suffering from insomnia at some point in their life.

Jeanette Kusel, acting director for MedTech and digital at Nice, said: “Until now people with insomnia have been offered sleeping pills and taught about sleep hygiene, so our committee’s recommendation of [the app] provides GPs and their patients with a new treatment option.

“Our rigorous, transparent and evidence-based analysis has found that [the app] is cost-saving for the NHS compared with usual treatments in primary care. It will also reduce people with insomnia’s reliance on dependence-forming drugs such as zolpidem and zopiclone.

“This is a good example of where a digital health technology can help the NHS. The evidence has shown using [the app] reduces the number of GP appointments people with insomnia need and will also cut the number of prescriptions for sleeping pills delivered by pharmacists.”

The app costs £45 per person excluding VAT, however NICE say the app is cost-saving compared to the usual treatment processes in primary care, based on analysis of primary care resource use data before and after the app being trialled in nine GP practices.

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