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Open Access Open Badges Research article

A national survey of health service infrastructure and policy impacts on access to computerised CBT in Scotland

David Kenicer1, Carrie-Anne McClay2 and Christopher Williams2*

Author affiliations

1 Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow, UK

2 Academic Unit of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, Glasgow, UK

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2012, 12:102  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-102

Published: 8 September 2012



NICE recommends computerised cognitive behavioural therapy (cCBT) for the treatment of several mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. cCBT may be one way that services can reduce waiting lists and improve capacity and efficiency. However, there is some doubt about the extent to which the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is embracing this new health technology in practice. This study aimed to investigate Scottish health service infrastructure and policies that promote or impede the implementation of cCBT in the NHS.


A telephone survey of lead IT staff at all health board areas across Scotland to systematically enquire about the ability of local IT infrastructure and IT policies to support delivery of cCBT.


Overall, most of the health boards possess the required software to use cCBT programmes. However, the majority of NHS health boards reported that they lack dedicated computers for patient use, hence access to cCBT at NHS sites is limited. Additionally, local policy in the majority of boards prevent staff from routinely contacting patients via email, skype or instant messenger, making the delivery of short, efficient support sessions difficult.


Conclusions: Overall most of the infrastructure is in place but is not utilised in ways that allow effective delivery. For cCBT to be successfully delivered within a guided support model, as recommended by national guidelines, dedicated patient computers should be provided to allow access to online interventions. Additionally, policy should allow staff to support patients in convenient ways such as via email or live chat. These measures would increase the likelihood of achieving Scottish health service targets to reduce waiting time for psychological therapies to 18 weeks.