Objective To document the range of web and smartphone apps used and recommended for stress, anxiety or depression by the National Health Service (NHS) in England.
Design The study was conducted using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and systematic website searches.
Data sources Data were collected via FOI requests to NHS services between 13 February 2015 and 31 March 2015, and searches conducted on NHS apps library websites between 26 March 2015 and 2 November 2015.
Data collection/extraction methods Data were compiled from responses to: (1) FOI requests sent to all Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services and NHS Mental Health Trusts in England and (2) NHS apps library search results.
Results A total of 61 (54.95%) out of the then 111 IAPT service providers responded, accounting for 191 IAPT services, and all 51 of the then NHS Mental Health Trusts responded. The results were that 13 different web apps and 35 different smartphone apps for depression, anxiety or stress were available through either referral services or the online NHS Apps Libraries. The apps used and recommended vary by area and by point of access (online library/IAPT/trust).
Conclusions Future research is required to establish the evidence base for the apps that are being used in the NHS in England. There is a need for service provision to be based on evidence and established guidelines.
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Contributors MRB and AM conceived of and designed the research. MRB collected and analysed the data. MRB and AM interpreted the results and drafted the manuscript, and AM, GH and RKM revised it. All authors approved the final version of the article. All authors had access to all study data and take responsibility for data integrity and accuracy of the analysis.
Funding This work was supported by a PhD studentship awarded by the University of Sheffield to the first author, and Economic and Social Research Council grant number ES/L001365/1.
Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the views of the NHS England.
Competing interests The last author was formerly an employee (2010–2012) and minor shareholder of Ultrasis UK (makers of ‘Beating the Blues’), which went into administration in October 2015.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Additional data for this article have been provided as online supplementary.