Hundreds of thousands of insomniacs and anxiety sufferers in Scotland are now able to download free therapy apps.
NHS officials north of the border have struck a deal to provide two different self-help programmes.
The apps will be one of the first forms of treatment offered to patients with anxiety and insomnia in Scotland, alongside drugs.
But the provider of the cognitive behavioural therapy apps challenged the ‘postcode lottery’ of care across the UK.
Dr Charlotte Lee, director of Big Health, said: ‘As demand for mental health services continues to rise, innovative countries like Scotland have focused on genuinely expanding access to care with digital medicines.
‘While this is great for people living in Scotland, we should move away from a postcode lottery for care.
‘When treatment can be delivered digitally, it can cross borders and innovative healthcare systems in the UK should take a proactive approach to ensuring equity of access to a proven treatment.
‘We believe people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with conditions such as insomnia and anxiety should be able to get instant, evidence-based help on the NHS instead of being given drugs.
She added: ‘If Scotland can do it, the rest of the UK can too.’
For anxiety – which affects around one in 10 Britons on any given week – Daylight (left) includes exercises, such as training your brain to only worry at a certain time and reframing unhelpful thoughts. Made for insomnia sufferers, Sleepio (right) is a six-week programme that includes a 20 minute session with a virtual sleep expert each week and sleep tracking. One in six Britons suffer from sleep problems, but experts have warned the pandemic pushed the figure up to one in four
Under the deal with Scottish officials, all 14 NHS trusts north of the border can now offer their patients Daylight and Sleepio.
Patients battling insomnia or anxiety can also sign up themselves, bypassing the need to visit their GP.
The two apps were crafted by Big Health, a firm co-founded by Oxford University sleep expert Professor Colin Espie.
Sleepio allows patients to work out how much sleep they require and offers them support in how to put their racing mind to rest.
It is a six-week programme which includes a 20 minute session with a virtual sleep expert once-a-week.
What is insomnia?
People with insomnia have difficulty sleeping.
The problem, which affects one in six Britons, can usually get better if sufferers change their sleeping habits.
Symptoms include finding it hard to sleep, waking up several times in the night, waking up early and struggling to get back to sleep.
It can be triggered by stress, anxiety or depression, noise, a room that is too hot or cold, an uncomfortable bed, shift work, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine, as well as recreational drugs.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Insomnia a can be short term – lasting three months or less or long-term if it persists for more than 12 weeks.
Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions with a therapist, which can help change thoughts and behaviours that stop people from sleeping.
GPs rarely prescribe sleeping pills over concerns about their side effects and drug dependency.
Meanwhile, Daylight offers exercises to train your brain to only worry at a certain time and reframing unhelpful thoughts.
Studies have found that more than 70 per cent of people who use the apps experience improvements with their anxiety and insomnia.
One in six Britons suffer from sleep problems, with stress, anxiety and depression often to blame.
And nearly one in 10 suffer from anxiety, according to charities.
The move makes Scotland the first country in the world to provide instant help for anxiety and insomnia sufferers for free.
The country’s Government established new policies and services in 2017 as part of a 10-year plan to tackle mental health.
Before the nation-wide rollout of the apps, they were trialled in five NHS health board areas in Scotland.
In England, the apps are currently only available on the NHS in North Hampshire and the Thames Valley.
Kevin Stewart, Scotland’s Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, said: ‘Digital technologies have massive potential to help people manage and support their mental health in a way that feels right for them.
‘We are working with NHS Scotland to combine traditional in-person services with technology enabled solutions, allowing us to reach people with the right treatment at the right time.
‘The Covid pandemic has only affirmed what we knew from the beginning – digital mental health is critical to help scale much-needed services and provide additional choice for people to manage their mental health.
‘After assessing the effectiveness of Daylight and Sleepio, we are pleased to launch these treatments nationwide, providing clinically validated solutions for those who need it most.’