Sleepio is an online support programme to address insomnia which affects one in ten adults. It aims to improve sleep without sleeping tablets through a fully automated, interactive web-based tool.
Innovate UK is funding a project providing free direct access to Sleepio to all 2.7 million adults living in the Thames Valley (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Oxfordshire) from October 2018 until autumn 2019. This is the first large-scale NHS rollout of direct access digital medicine. This means people can access the programme without needing a GP referral or prescription.
This initiative is being led by the Oxford Academic Health Science Network (Oxford AHSN) in partnership with Big Health (the company behind Sleepio), major employers, GP surgeries and other primary care professionals. It is supported by NHS England and the NHS Innovation Accelerator.
Sarah Longfield, UK Project Manager, Big Health, said: “Big Health’s partnership with Oxford AHSN has been invaluable. The AHSN’s support and reputation has enabled us to build strong relationships with commissioners, partners and local stakeholders who otherwise may have been reluctant to engage with a private organisation.
“The team has been incredibly proactive in identifying synergies with other NHS initiatives and opportunities for promotion both regionally and nationally. Their expertise in real world evaluation has been critical in shaping our approach to economic analysis.”
A health economic evaluation will be conducted at the end of the year-long trial focusing on how the NHS can expand the provision of digital medicines like Sleepio at scale.
The Oxford AHSN Sleepio project seeks to engage with large local employers, promoting Sleepio to their workforces. Nine GP surgeries in Buckinghamshire (with a combined total of 120,000 registered patients) have been recruited to the project to offer Sleepio directly to patients who would otherwise be offered medication only.
A dedicated free weblink for Thames Valley residents (sleepio.com/nhs) was launched on 10 October 2018 (World Mental Health Day). By the end of February 2019, 3,286 people had completed a sleep test. This produces a score based on feedback on sleep quality. Those with less severe sleep disruption are directed to a self-help guide while about a third (1,165) with more deep-seated insomnia have started the CBT-based programme.
Of those signing up, about a third had heard about Sleepio through their employer, others via their GP, psychological therapies service or the Live Well Stay Well initiative in Bucks.
There are more than 30 published papers on Sleepio including eight randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and an evaluation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). The RCT results show that Sleepio is comparable in effectiveness to in-person CBT, helping over seven out of ten poor sleepers achieve and maintain healthy sleep patterns. The evidence indicates that better sleep leads to improved quality of life – in the waking hours as well as during the night.
More information for patients, GPs and employers can be found here.