Innovating Mental Health Services in Scotland Open Innovation Challenge: Phase 2 Results

Vision: Delivering person-centred and equitable Mental Health support and services for people in Scotland.


The Scottish government Chief Scientist Office and the Scottish Government Mental Health and Wellbeing Directorate are investing £750,000 including VAT, in a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) focused on innovating mental health services in Scotland.

The competition provides an opportunity for companies, working in partnership with NHS Scotland regional Innovation Hubs to develop disruptive innovative solutions that address:

• Young persons challenge

• Hard to reach populations (people with existing mental health conditions and/or people with a co-occurring condition e.g. sensory loss, alcohol, or substance issues)

• Patient centred care pathways

• Treatment resistant conditions

• Prioritisation of backlog

The aim of this competition is to develop disruptive innovative solutions that address:

Challenge A - Supporting people who are not currently receiving treatment and addressing the backlog of patients on waiting lists.

Challenge B - Delivering person-centred and equitable Mental Health support and services to people who are currently receiving treatment by optimising clinical and social care pathways.

The challenge was launched in 2022 and attracted a high number of excellent applications. Five companies successfully completed their 4-month Phase 1 feasibility projects in May. Following a competitive application, 3 companies have embarked on their 12-month Phase 2 prototyping and validation projects. Project details are provided below.

Wysa, working with Health Innovation South East Scotland. Utilising AI to deliver better mental health at the right time for the school age population

AI leading the way for young people accessing mental health support.

Trusted AI-enabled mental health app, Wysa, launched in North West Edinburgh in February 2023 for students aged 12-18 years in a pilot study aiming to increase access to psychological self-management tools for young people. Full access to the Wysa platform provided students with a wide range of tools and resources to help address challenges young people often face such as anxiety, sleep, stress, relationships, body image and more.

The launch saw a successful 17% uptake rate among eligible users in just 5 weeks, making a rollout of Wysa at population level for the whole of Scotland look promising. Knowing that their conversations were anonymous and private, 8 in 10 young people said they prefer talking to a bot over a teacher, highlighting the need for a digital solution to accessing mental health support.

For phase two of this innovation WYSA will be developing and testing a co-designed e-triage extension that will signpost young people to onward support when needed. The project will work with local services and young people to map important areas where young people can seek onward support including schools, charities and local CAMHS services. Young people in Scotland will then be given access to the WYSA app as a preventative tool to encourage self-management of mental health and wellbeing. Those young people who present as having a higher clinical need will then be able to initiate a referral to local services for onward support.

The project aims to increase young people’s access to self-management support across Scotland whilst supporting services to receive referrals in a way that captures the voice of the young person and reduces the number of referrals that are rejected improving services capacity but most importantly improving the journey for young people.

Voxsio, working the North of Scotland Innovation Hub Supporting Young People Who Can’t Access Face-to-Face Services

Accessing appropriate healthcare can be especially difficult for young people. For example, around 109,000 young people in Scotland have functional disorders. These embarrassing and painful symptoms have no underlying physical cause and are often connected to psychological issues. These young people need care, but due to a shortage of services they usually have no access to psychological support or, at best, are placed on lengthy waiting-lists. Working with NHS Grampian, Voxsio has created the disruptive digital health app UB-OK to give young people with gastrointestinal functional disorders access to evidence-based psychological therapies and support for their physical symptoms. Bypassing waitlists, UB-OK provides instant support, helping these young people to manage their physical and mental symptoms, creating better health outcomes.

In Phase 1 of this SBRI, Voxsio has worked with young people and NHS Clinicians to make UB-OK engaging, useful, and ethical. With colleagues in NHS Grampian, Tayside, Highland, and young people, Voxsio will now run a Feasibility Study based on the Medical Research Council framework. This study will establish early estimates of efficacy of UB-OK and importantly prove how young people engage with the app.

The outcome of the Feasibility Study will be used to secure further funding from national bodies such as NIHR and Innovate UK to run a larger trial to produce independent clinical evidence of the effectiveness of UB-OK.

This will pave the way for the adoption of UB-OK in healthcare across Scotland and the UK. When adopted, UB-OK will directly address this SBRI Challenge delivering a sustainable, accessible, and equitable service to this vulnerable and hard-to-reach group of young people who are not currently receiving any care, accelerating the delivery of services, reducing waiting lists, and improving their quality of life.

RedStar, working with the West of Scotland Innovation Hub Data Driven Dashboards to Create a Mental Health Platform

Red Star have interviewed a large number of stakeholders across mental health services in NHS Glasgow to understand what they would like to see from a modern, data-driven clinical system to support mental health services in Glasgow.

Based on this, we have co-designed a solution with users which will provide a modern IT platform.

Our designs address the following priorities of NHS Scotland Mental Health Services

• Streamline pathways for ADHD diagnosis and care ensuring that patients are in charge of their own diagnosis with efficiencies we introduce meaning allowing clinical staff to reduce the waiting list of people waiting for diagnosis.

• A digital first approach meeting the needs of young people.

• Pilot a pathway for ADHD diagnosis which can later be developed into a single neurodevelopmental pathway with one combined diagnostic process covering common co-morbidities such as Autism.

• Enhanced remote monitoring for people with eating disorders, ensuring that they are properly monitored, making it easier for clinical staff to see patient trajectories and also see where patients are not being properly monitored in GP surgeries.

• In the future, this streamlined pathway mean that specialist services can monitor more patients across the service, improving the quality of monitoring.

• Capturing of information and digital referrals mean that assessments and triaging can take place asynchronously allowing for efficiencies by streamlining workloads and only performing tasks when all the required information is available.

• Enhanced communication between Community Mental Health, Specialist Services and GPs.

• By digitising the collection of information in one system, we will greatly enhance the opportunities for data driven research and evidence-based medicine.