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Theresa May announces £67m fund for digital mental health services

Prime minister Theresa May promises to invest in a digital mental health package, including online symptom checkers, digital therapy and apps

Prime minister Theresa May has launched a £67.7m funding package to develop and implement digital tools to be used in mental health services.

The commitment comes as the government has issued its response to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health report (FYFW), and is part of a wider plan to transform and improve access to mental health support across the UK.

This includes allowing people to check their symptoms online and get access to digital therapy right away, rather than having to wait for a face-to-face appointment.

“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life,” said May.

“What I am announcing are the first steps in our plan to transform the way we deal with mental illness in this country at every stage of a person’s life: not in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.”

NHS England will lead the delivery of digitally enabled mental health services though developing “comprehensive transparent performance data” and increasing the number of NHS accredited apps and integrated health records”, the government said in its response to the FYFW.  

In 2016, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that 12 acute health trusts, chosen as “global exemplars”, would each receive up to £10m in funding to help them pioneer new approaches to digital services.

The global exemplar programme has been extended to include six mental health trusts which will “focus on improving informatics and technology”.  

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“Their innovations can then be shared with other mental health trusts, enabling them to rapidly benefit from improvements in the use of information technology,” the government said.

The government will also develop a range of digital tools, mostly focused on children and young people’s mental health. The tools will become part of NHS England’s apps library, which will be relaunched in April 2017 as part of the new NHS.UK website, where mental health content will also be reviewed and redeveloped. 

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