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Publication Date: 15/09/2016 

From hearts to minds - texts now helping people to beat the blues 

Telehealth revolution a boost to online therapy programme 


CBT is a psychological therapy that works on the relationships between thoughts, behaviours and feelings. 

A GROUNDBREAKING text messaging system – inspired by 19th century nursing heroine Florence Nightingale – is being used to help support people with depression and/or anxiety in Lanarkshire.

The Florence Simple Telehealth text messaging system, or ‘Flo’ for short, was named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, for its human touch.

Part of Telehealth (the delivery of health-related services and information via telecommunications technology), Flo has already been used to support patients living with a variety of conditions, including heart failure. 

In those instances, heart failure patients are equipped and taught how to self monitor details such as weight and blood pressure. The patient then texts readings to an automated system which has been programmed by specialist nurses.

Flo replies accordingly with advice and information. Crucially, the system can assist the nurse to indentify flare ups at the earliest stage. From healthy hearts, Flo is now being used to enhance an eight -week programme focusing on healthy minds.

“In November 2014 we introduced Beating the Blues, a computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT),” explained Diane Reilly of NHS Lanarkshire.

“CBT is a psychological therapy that works on the relationships between thoughts, behaviours and feelings.  CBT teaches individuals how to recognise and tackle problems, here and now rather than in the past.

“Face to face CBT has been used for many years to treat depression, but the digital therapy has enabled a much larger patient group to access this clinically proven treatment. 

“Patients have been be able to access the treatment, which comes in the form of a computer based, online course, from a range of different locations such as their own home or a local library, and at a time that suits them.

Diane continued: “Flo has been used recently to support the programme by sending a series of texts to patients.

“It sends information like reminders when a certain aspect of the therapy has to be started and encouragement when a module of the therapy has been completed.

“Flo is also being used to send recaps about key learning points of the therapy to reiterate practical steps people can take to deal depression and/or anxiety throughout the day.

“For example, Flo might send someone a message like ‘Don’t forget to do something pleasurable during the week – even if it is an effort.’”

Diane added: “We’ve found the programme is suitable for patients who don't like the idea of talking therapies or prefer the anonymity which a computerised treatment offers – and that Flo has been able to enhance the package of support by offering a that personalised aspect.”

Following the integration of health and social care on April 1, a primary focus in both North and South Lanarkshire is providing the right care, at the right time and in the right place.

• GPs are able to refer patients directly to the programme. Self referrals are not available at this point. For general information contact Diane Reilly on Diane.Reilly2@lanarkshire.scot.nhs.uk or 01698 366740

Case study

One patient of Beating The Blues, who preferred not to be named, said the Florence system has system has been a real boost.

“The modules have been supported by the text messaging service and it brings you a sense of comfort that you are not alone.What’s been a huge help to me is that when you are feeling down or anxious, your motivation can dwindle.

“The texts reminding you to complete an online module or offering encouragement have been timely prompts for me.

“I’ve never been one to make a fuss and the anonymity of the digital therapy has been good. And having the text support is Iike having an encouraging, non judgemental friend in your corner through dark times.”