Best For You is a new initiative from leading NHS organisations that is transforming mental health services for children and young people. The project is led by CW+, the official charity of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and is a coalition of NHS organisations including Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust, West London NHS Trust and Imperial College.
Best For You works across the existing services provided by the partners as well as the broader health and social care and third sector to introduce new innovative models and partnerships to provide support for as much of the largest health population in the country as possible. The service uses next-generation therapeutic interventions and digital tools to provide the best possible care for patients – including the use of digitally and clinically assured digital health solutions from their ORCHA Health App Library.
This new integrated approach working across partners and the wider ecosystem is in response to the public health crisis surrounding children and young people’s need for mental health support. A survey commissioned by NHS Digital found that the number of children and young people with clinically significant mental health conditions was 50% higher post-COVID-19 than the previous survey three years earlier. New data shows that referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in March 2021 were more than double those in March 2020. Best For You helps to tackle this issue through tailored, holistic care which seamlessly integrates mental health services, physical health service, community services and partnerships and digital tools.
Best For You worked with ORCHA to develop a Health App Library designed to support children and young people struggling with their mental health, and their families and carers, to access safe, accredited health apps to support them.
The site includes thousands of assessed health apps, including around 300 mental health apps, which have been reviewed against 350+ criteria across clinical effectiveness, data security and accessibility. ORCHA’s review process for health apps incorporates nationally recognised digital health standards and regulations, including an adapted version of the NICE Evidence Standards Framework.
By including compliant digital therapies in its care pathways through the ORCHA partnership, Best For You is addressing the rising levels of children and young people facing serious mental health difficulties, while safeguarding them from any harmful digital health solutions. The Best For You ORCHA Library can be accessed at bestforyou.orcha.co.uk, and is the UK’s first dedicated App Library for children and young people in need of mental health support. The main Best For You digital platform can be viewed at bestforyou.org.uk.
The Best For You Library launched in November 2021, and has already had almost 2,000 page sessions and over 2,300 searches for apps to help with mental health conditions such as anxiety, low mood, eating disorders and sleep.
“This is something that people were looking for. Having that trusted and validated one-stop-shop for digital health tools for young people is something that clearly service users and clinicians are starting to tap into.
From our perspective at CW+ and Chelsea and Westminster, working with ORCHA was really the only option to create the kind of App Library we wanted to deliver. Ultimately, this is about keeping people as people and stopping them from becoming patients in the first place.”
Chris Chaney, Chief Executive of CW+
Featured image:ORCHA team stood together outside
The ranking was compiled by technology magazine Business Cloud. It follows a succession of other award wins for ORCHA and its founder Liz Ashall-Payne, in just the last few months.
Commenting on her company’s inclusion in the ranking, Liz said: “Founding a health-tech start up has been an incredible challenge and has taken immense resilience. To be where we are today, with a committed team of creative, motivated colleagues, is fantastic. Massive thanks to all those voted for us to be in this prestigious ranking.”
Other award successes for ORCHA so far in 2022 are:
ORCHA’s Health App Libraries are now used by doctors across extensive parts of the NHS and in 12 other countries. Health apps are routinely being recommended to help patients stop smoking, manage long term conditions, maintain a healthy weight, monitor their blood pressure, and much more.
Liz added: “The more we all turn to digital health tools, the more ORCHA will be needed. There’s an ongoing issue with quality. Only 20% of all the health apps we review – and we’ve done 20,000 reviews to date – meet the standards necessary for us to recommend them to the NHS.”
ORCHA’s rapid expansion means it is constantly recruiting. For details of the latest positions visit https://orchahealth.com/about-us/recruitment/.
Read more about the HealthTech 50 here: https://businesscloud.co.uk/healthtech-50-uks-most-innovative-health-technology-creators-for-2022
Featured image: Group of mixed age and ethnicity teenage friends on a walk in Beadnell, North East England. They are standing in a field looking at each others phones, talking together.
ORCHA has selected five mental health apps which could help anxious teenagers as they wait for their A Level and GCSE results (due on 18 August and 25 August).
The apps are:
They allow young people to communicate with their peers anonymously, learn techniques to cope with anxiety and increase their resilience – and all in a safe environment.
Clinical psychologist Dr Humphreys, managing director of ORCHA, commented that Generation Z have grown up with tech and it’s like a natural language for them.
Dr Humphreys added:
“Teens who socialise online will find it entirely normal to also seek support in a virtual environment. In this ever present, always on world, you can use a health app and engage as much as you feel able, and at any time you like. There is good evidence of their effectiveness – and combining technology with others forms of support can provide a well-rounded way of meeting teenagers within their comfort zones, breaking down many barriers.”
Matt Pearson, 18, who studied at Derby College and is waiting for his A Level results next week, said:
“Oftentimes, talking to your parents about exam results seems circular. Because you’re trying to relieve stress by talking directly to a major component of the stress. What I would say, and what many others my age would as well, is that looking online can give you a better solution. Whether that is talking to your friends over social media, strangers on random forums or talking to a chatbot or playing a game.
“Talking to your parents is high consequence. Whereas talking to a random person is low consequence. They aren’t going to judge you and it won’t impact anything. It is just a method of expressing your emotions. Health apps allow you to do that in a safe manner.”
Independent research commissioned by ORCHA* found that:
ORCHA recommends that families select health apps carefully, as 80% still fail to pass its quality assurance process – many have insufficient clinical backing or are lax on data privacy. Apps which are NHS accredited or which appear on an ORCHA app library have been rigorously vetted and are safe to use.
FOR GETTING REASSURANCE FROM PEERS – TELLMI
Tellmi was selected for this ORCHA list by a group of teen boys, who felt their peers would benefit from it. It allows users to share their struggles and receive advice from other users. The app has a social media-like layout which teenagers will be very familiar with, making it more appealing and engaging. Tellmi has an age band feature that connects app users to others of a similar age.
Platforms: Apple iOS, Google, Android
ORCHA score: 81%
FOR ANONYMOUS CHAT – WYSA
Wysa was also selected by ORCHA’s teen panel. It’s an AI chatbot which allows users to express their feelings confidently and anonymously. Using short CBT activities, it helps users to cultivate confidence, reduce anxiety and improve general wellbeing.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
Cost: The app is free to download and use on a limited basis. There are then in-app purchases.
ORCHA score: 85%
FOR HANDLING LIFE’S UPS AND DOWNS – WOEBOT
Woebot can help you think through situations step by step, using proven therapeutic methods. It’s used by millions of people every week to cope with anxiety, depression, loneliness and much more. It checks in with you, helping with insights and skills development.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
Cost: The app is entirely free.
ORCHA score: 84%
FOR GETTING BETTER SLEEP – SMILING MIND
This free mindfulness meditation app has programmes for youths (13-18) and adults (19+). It’s designed to look after your mind, helping with the pressure, stress and challenges. Learn how to relax and cope – and sleep better.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
Cost: The app is entirely free
ORCHA score: 77%
FOR EASY LISTENING – FEELING GOOD
Feeling Good is accredited by NHS digital. It provides mental health focussed audio tracks to help you build essential skills, bounce forward and become more resilient: a great option for teens who love podcasts. There are programmes for both teens and adults.
Platforms: Apple iOS and Android
Cost: There are several free tracks, then the whole app can be unlocked with a referral code or one-time payment.
ORCHA score: 90%
*OnePoll survey of 2000 consumers, May 2022
LMA is a media, performing arts and music specialist institution. The Academy takes a student-first approach, encouraging collaboration and support as key elements of the student experience.
LMA launched its partnership with ORCHA in 2019, keen to help students and staff take control of their physical and mental wellbeing. The LMA Health App Library provides instant access to digital support tools which can be used as and when suits the individual, which is very helpful to students with busy schedules.
Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and LMA was forced to suspend in-person studies. The highly practical nature of performing arts studies meant that continuing with studies was challenging, and, although LMA switched to remote learning and student services, for many students it was difficult to maintain the level of learning which took place prior.
The Student Services team at LMA have found the apps included in the Library useful not only to students with preexisting mental and physical health diagnoses, but also to students who have developed anxieties during the isolation periods of the last two years.
The Student Services team used the Library and resources from ORCHA throughout lockdown to consistently communicate with students about the safe digital health solutions available to them. The team continues to offer these resources to students, based on which time periods and touchpoints the students are likely to require support for.
Hannah, from the Student Services team at LMA, has found that mental health apps in particular are incredibly helpful resources as the NHS struggles to keep up with the growing mental health challenges and the waiting lists for traditional services continue to grow.
“Waiting lists for NHS counselling and other services were 26 weeks before lockdown, now you’re talking over a year and so, obviously, having these apps to hand to be able to recommend to our students to fill that gap really helps – some students didn’t need to access the support that their doctors were referring them to because they’re tapped into these apps and they implement these exercises daily and use the strategies to help them through difficult times.”
Response to the Library by students and professionals has been very positive. To date, there have been over 2,500 sessions and over 5,000 page views. The most common route to accessing the site is directly, as LMA is very proactive in promoting the Library, particularly during the first “freshers” weeks and exam season. There are also many students accessing the Library via links on the LMA website and via emails sent to them.
In the main, the apps recommended by Pros at LMA are mental health and anxiety support apps. The team have also found healthy living and nutrition apps useful for boosting their students’ overall health. A recent development has been the growing use of apps for diabetic students to access safe information and guidance. LMA has also found a lot of use for apps for eating disorder management and prevention, as, due to the nature of performing arts careers and institutes, some students may be at a higher risk of issues surrounding body image.
The Student Services team, in working with such a diverse group of students, find that by having the additional resource available to them via the ORCHA Library, they can support both the students who are more forthcoming when they are struggling, and those who are not. Through the recommendation functionality included in the ORCHA Pro account, the team can send accredited health apps safely and directly to students, but by also presenting it as a self-help option which students can access at any time, the team can support students without their having to request help.
Since introducing the ORCHA Library, the Student Services team have noticed a decline in students needing face-to-face appointments.
“All students are different and not one size fits all. So some students like to come and talk about their feelings face-to-face, but some students bottle it all up and they like to deal with it themselves. Now, the Library is a service they can tap into absolutely anywhere across the world; we know that we’re covering all bases and that’s reassuring to us. Our students are covered and if they do want that support but don’t want to speak to us, it’s just there, on their phones – basically everyone has a phone in their hands all the time, so they can just have the support they need and we know that everyone’s covered.”
Quote from Hannah
Caitlin, a recent graduate of LMA, found the apps particularly useful, both during lockdown and following it. As a musical theatre student, Caitlin was both doing a very intensive course with a lot of in-person hours and also working a full-time job outside of her studies. Describing herself as someone who struggles with anxiety, and “jumps to conclusions” or “gets in her own head about things when it’s not as bad as it seems”, she found an anxiety management app very helpful for remembering to take time out for herself and complete regular breathing exercises. She found the app particularly helpful during the lockdown periods for privately expressing her feelings, whilst being able to bear in mind that many other people used the app and struggled with similar circumstances.
Although Caitlin felt very much able to rely on the Student Service team’s support, the addition of the apps “changed the whole experience”. Caitlin, in coming towards the end of her studies and straight into a career as lead vocalist for a production company, reflected on times in her studies when she lost motivation, or struggled to manage her stress.
“I felt like I had been out of it for a while. I’d kind of lost a lot of motivation to get back into my studies. And then obviously, I was going back to work and I felt really overwhelmed when I started not being able to attend classes. I was just stressing myself out with everything. So having all this support helped me get back on track and things because I knew it was important and I really wanted to get my degree but also loved my work so I just had to find a healthy balance between the two, but without support from everyone I probably wouldn’t have got back on track the way I am now.”
Quote from Caitlin
Caitlin found that the combined approach worked very well for her, as although she requested support through the Student Services team, it was sometimes a little embarrassing or anxiety-inducing to go through official channels, and so it was beneficial to have access to other support when she didn’t want to feel as though she was bothering anyone.
The Student Services team have found that:
“Students are more forthcoming using apps, rather than looking at a web page or downloading and reading through an application form – it’s very current and it helps that we can recommend it to students.”
Caitlin reiterated this, stating that
“Technology makes life so much easier. As for me, I’ve got no patience to sit and read through things without having it so it’s quick and easy to access and just encourages you to use it more.”
When asked what she would say to other students looking to access digital mental or physical health support, Caitlin said
“I would definitely say get yourself on these apps because they really help. I would just say tap into them because they’re really useful and you don’t realise – I think it was the same with me, I felt this probably won’t help with anything. And then you download it and then you find yourself using it because simple things just change everything.”
Quote from Caitlin