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Innovative app library adds a new dimension to improving the community’s mental health and wellbeing

PATIENTS across Salford are turning in ever-increasing numbers to a home-grown innovation designed to improve their mental health and well-being – all from their smartphone and/or tablet.

And as the country marks Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 13 – Sunday 19 May), the wider Salford community is being urged to take advantage of a new website that has been created to pinpoint the world’s best and safest health apps.

The easy-to-use library, https://salford.orcha.co.uk, has been created after researchers rigorously tested more than 325,000 apps on the market to make it easier for the people of Salford to download the most trusted ones.

Branded “An App a Day”, it has been brought to life by Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with experts from ORCHA – the Organisation for the Review of Care and Health Applications.

Interestingly, so far, the apps downloaded most frequently are those that support people with anxiety, stress, eating issues, sleeping patterns, depression and other mental health-related conditions.

Exercise and hobby-based apps – which can also have a proven positive benefit on mental health – are also popular.

Apps are also fast-becoming a key feature in the programme of care and treatment offered to over 1,200 patients a year by the Clinical Health Psychology Team at Salford Royal.

“As psychologists, we do a lot of work with patients in relation to managing their thoughts and feelings,” said Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Jessica Dean. “One of the ideas we had was that using apps in addition to our talking based therapies would be a step forward in our treatments.

“There can however be dangers associated with using apps that haven’t been well scrutinised, particularly in the area of mental health.

“The information and advice we provide to patients (be it an app or verbal advice) is quite powerful, especially when people are feeling emotionally vulnerable, so making sure that the apps we recommend are of good quality is therefore very important.

“This is where the ORCHA website (https://salford.orcha.co.uk) proves extremely useful.

“The new ORCHA website adds a different dimension as it helps therapists to understand if an app is safe to use, or if the information it contains is accurate and well validated.

“It’s also important to remember that apps aren’t just about giving information –

they are also about engaging patients in their own mental healthcare and well-being.”

In the patient information section on its newly designed service webpage, the Clinical Health Psychology Team signposts visitors to the library of trusted mental health apps, which is just a click away.

It is also considering sharing the information and links in appointment letters, so their patients can access the apps before seeing a psychologist and try their benefits first-hand as a form of self-help.

Jessica added: “The initial feedback has been really good and hopefully Mental Health Awareness Week will further raise the profile of this innovation and encourage more people to download the apps –safe in the knowledge that they have been tried and tested.”

Each app is subjected to the seven stages of the ORCHA review process to investigate how good, secure and user-friendly it really is, and to assess any potential risks it may hold, before being given a clear and transparent review score.

With upwards of 200 new care and health apps hitting the market every day, the dedicated app library is being updated constantly to keep pace with the latest clinical thinking.

In addition to mental health apps, the people of Salford can also find approved apps for hundreds of different needs, such as helping to stop smoking, improving fitness, overcoming breathing difficulties, and managing diabetes. Salford.orcha.co.uk is live and free to access now.

This is one of the latest projects to go live as part of Salford Royal’s programme of more than 50 world-class projects, being fast-tracked by its specialist Global Digital Exemplar and Future Digital teams.

· Mental Health Awareness Week is sponsored by the Mental Health Foundation and takes place between 13 – 19 May, with the 2019 theme being Body Image – how we all think and feel about our bodies.

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