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4 February, 2014 - 16:23 By Tony Quested

Talking therapies firm wins new UK deal

PsychologyOnline man in shirt with iPad

Cambridge based PsychologyOnline will provide more NHS patients in the UK with online psychological therapy after signing a partnership deal with Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

The move will increase patient choice and access to therapy by offering the chance to have PsychologyOnline's live, one-to-one cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) with a UK-accredited therapist via instant message over the internet at any time of the day or night.

CBT is widely used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and stress-related disorders. The agreement builds on PsychologyOnline's existing work in Surrey. In April 2013, PsychologyOnline was commissioned by Surrey's Mental Health CCG Collaboration to provide online CBT to patients across all five of Surrey's clinical commissioning groups.

Surrey and Borders Partnership’s decision to increase its talking therapies capability with PsychologyOnline will reduce waiting times, offer greater patient choice and allow improved access for those who find it difficult to attend face-to-face sessions.

The Cambridge medical technology provider is gaining increasing traction with the solution and Raj Rutah, associate director at Surrey and Borders Partnership, says the scheme “embraces new technologies and methodologies,” and will improve outcomes.

“We want to provide our patients with choice so they can select the therapies and treatment that will work best for them. The busy lives of many of our patients mean they struggle to keep face-to-face appointments during the day. By working with PsychologyOnline, we are enhancing the treatment options for people with families, full-time jobs and for those who can’t or don’t want to leave the sanctuary of their own home.”

PsychologyOnline provides live, one-to-one text-based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) with a UK-trained and accredited therapist using a secure instant messaging system. Written CBT has been shown to be very effective at treating a range of conditions including mild to severe depression, phobia, stress and anxiety disorders.

Barnaby Perks, chief executive officer at PsychologyOnline, says that the partnership is an example of how greater flexibility can be offered within existing NHS structures.

“Surrey and Borders Partnership is well known to GPs in the region and often the first point of call for referrals. By offering our text-based online therapy alongside face-to-face and group therapy, Surrey and Borders Partnership will be able to offer greater choice. There is no waiting list for treatment for those patients who choose the online therapy option.”

PsychologyOnline already provides therapy on prescription across all five Surrey CCG areas under the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme, but GPs have limited time to explain all the options to their patients.

The agreement with Surrey and Borders Partnership will allow experienced staff to assess each patient and explain the differences between the treatments available, to help patients to select the therapy that is right for them.

Support for clinical governance is another benefit of PsychologyOnline’s approach, as Perks explains: “Text-based therapy is particularly effective in allowing us to monitor the performance of our therapists and their outcomes. Patients keep the same highly-qualified and experienced therapist for the duration of their treatment to ensure continuity of care.”

Therapy from PsychologyOnline is available at flexible times, including evenings and weekends. It can take place at home or wherever the patient is most comfortable and all that is needed is access to a computer, tablet or smartphone with a stable internet connection.

Surrey and Borders Partnership has appointed PsychologyOnline a key partner in future IAPT bids as part of a bundle of psychological therapy services.

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