UCLan is first UK University to embed digital therapeutics training into curriculum

5 August 2019

UCLan partners with SilverCloud to help next generation of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and SilverCloud Health have partnered to deliver the first training in the use of digital therapy for the next generation of Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP).

Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is celebrating its tenth year since inception and is arguably one of the most successful NHS transformation programmes. Featuring prominently in the NHS Long-Term Plan, there is the intention of treating an additional 380,000 people per year by 2023/24.

The implementation of IAPT in 2008 saw the ground-breaking development of a new role, the Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner or Low Intensity Worker, designed to support people through a remit of guided self-help in evidence-based interventions, with training courses developed by universities to up-skill this specialised workforce.

Over the last decade more than 10,000 people have passed through IAPT training courses, with PWP training focusing on delivering guided self-help based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy models. However, despite digital therapy being central to IAPT programmes and having been the focus of numerous NICE approved research studies, such as the IAPT Assessment Briefing (‘IAB’) and the new Evaluations Framework for Digital Technologies, there is currently very little focus in the curriculum on the use and delivery of digital therapy for aspiring PWPs. Training in digital therapeutics has consistently been ad-hoc and ‘on the job’ relying on suppliers to provide workshops.

To address this unmet need and allow digital therapy to be given parity with other approaches   UCLan has teamed up with SilverCloud Health and other digital services to embed training in their PWP training course.

"Internet-based treatment is now the mainstay of mental health service delivery models and it is important to recognise this important contribution to a PWPs toolkit of techniques."

SilverCloud is the leading digital therapy service in IAPT covering over 70% of NHS services and having provided therapy to more than 250,000 people with recovery rates equal or better than face-to-face therapy for Step 2 IAPT services.

In teaming up with UCLan, Dr Lloyd Humphreys said: “This is an important development for the skilling up of the next generation of PWPs. When one considers that the cohorts of people coming through training now could be delivering low intensity therapy in the year 2040 and beyond, it is essential we provide them the right competencies in the use of digital tools. SilverCloud is honoured to be investing in the future of IAPT and working with UCLan which is a truly innovative and forward-looking University.”

UCLan’s Liz Kell, Senior Lecturer in Psychological Interventions and Course Lead for PWP training, said: “Internet-based treatment is now the mainstay of mental health service delivery models and it is important to recognise this important contribution to a PWPs toolkit of techniques. Working alongside the developers of these approaches is key to creating a competent workforce for the future. The course was unanimously well received and feedback has been positive, with trainees commenting on how useful it was to understand the history and development of digital therapies, and to have time to explore which client groups may best benefit from this approach, including how it can be integrated into different ways of working.”

The next steps are to embed this in future UCLan PWP training and expand to cover other therapy courses, along with sharing this learning with other universities wishing to do the same. This will hopefully also include an opportunity to trial trainee PWPs using the resilience and self-care tools to support their own wellbeing and gain a better understanding of the experiences of engaging with digital health.  The future of collaboration between digital health suppliers and academic institutions is central to innovation within the health system.