NHS bosses in North Hampshire have been shortlisted a prestigious award for its "groundbreaking" project.

North Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group formed a partnership with Big Health to prescribe the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) app Sleepio for free for those with trouble sleeping.

An alternative to prescribing drugs, the partnership has now been shortlisted in the mental health innovation category at the Health Service Journal awards.

Reacting to the news, Dr Tim Cooper, a GP in Basingstoke and the local NHS lead for the project, said: “One of the many problems we saw with the Covid-19 pandemic was how it affected people’s sleep – we frequently see people in our surgeries who are suffering the effects of poor sleep not just on their physical health, but on their sense of wellbeing.

“By working with the team at Sleepio we are able to direct people to a proven treatment which they can access instantly, around the clock. This is radically different to our previous options which mostly relied on short term medication, and which didn’t tackle the underlying issues which were causing such distress.

"Our teams across North Hampshire are excited to build on this early success, and it is tremendous to see how patients, when given the tools they need, can take back control of their mental health. “

More than 1,000 people have been supported virtually since the six-week program was available on the NHS in the region from October 2020. To date, 81 per cent people who completed at least two sessions saw an improvement in their insomnia symptoms.

The program uses CBT, and has gone through rigorous evaluation for safety and efficacy.

In 12 randomised controlled trials, Sleepio was proven to help participants fall asleep 54 per cent faster, spend 62% per cent less time awake at night, and have 45 per cent better functioning the next day.

Insomnia is a common problem causing frustration and poor health for millions – it is thought to affect around 1 in 10 people.

Big Health UK director Dr Charlotte Lee added: “We are proud of our partnership with the NHS in North Hampshire to provide non-drug alternatives for mental health.

"As Covid-19 has increased the access gap for mental health treatment, partnerships with innovative organisations like the NHS in North Hampshire and the local primary care practices have provided much needed, de-stigmatised treatment at scale."

Earlier this year, The Gazette spoke to Basingstoke teacher Catherine Floyd, who was one of many to use Sleepio.

Catherine has suffered from insomnia for over 16 years, and decided to give Sleepio a go just before Christmas.

But six weeks later, the programme, which teaches you about the 'racing mind' and how to control it, had a "massive impact" on the Rooksdown resident's life.

"I felt that I had more control on my sleep, rather than sleep controlling my life," the 31-year-old continued.

Patients living within North Hampshire are able to be prescribed Sleepio by a GP, or can self-refer.