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A new approach to insomnia care

A new project aims to reduce the 11 million prescriptions for sleeping tablets made each year by improving access to cognitive behavioural therapy for people with insomnia.

The joint intervention between the Loughborough University Clinical Sleep Research Unit (CSRU) and Nottinghamshire Healthcare will design an optimal care pathway for NHS patients, and provide a model of best practice for the treatment of patients with insomnia suitable to roll out throughout the NHS.

Around ten per cent of people in Britain suffer from insomnia and - according to the Office of National Statistics - people in Britain complain more often of insomnia than any other psychological symptom, including anxiety, depression and even pain. Yet, the only NHS treatment available is often a course of sleeping tablets.

Prescriptions for sleeping tablets to treat the symptoms of insomnia cost the NHS up to £25 million each year. However, among many patients, sleeping drugs have been found to bring only minor benefits, and they also pose a significant risk of harm.

Loughborough CSRU and Nottinghamshire Healthcare have a research partnership spanning more than 10 years. In a series of clinical trials, they have shown that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), delivered by a therapist or as self-help, can provide sustained improvements for sufferers regardless of their age or underlying health conditions.

In addition to liaising with all those services where patients experience severe sleep disturbances (including GP surgeries and local pharmacies), the year-long programme of activities will involve the deployment of evidence-based resources throughout the Nottinghamshire Healthcare area, including training programmes in CBT-I, self-help literature, information sheets, and a newly developed online support network.

Professor Kevin Morgan, Director of the Loughborough University CSRU said:

“The overall aim of this initiative is to develop a national model for the safe and effective treatment of all NHS patients with insomnia. 

“To achieve this we don’t need new treatments, but we do need to use all the available treatments more efficiently.

“By connecting all those services which currently provide support for patients with sleep problems, and by sharing the products of world-class research, this initiative will aim to make Nottinghamshire the best place in England for insomnia treatment.”   

Dr Maureen Tomeny, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director of the Let’s Talk - Wellbeing service for Nottinghamshire Healthcare said:

“This initiative combines two important NHS principles – putting research into practice, and integrating clinical services. Insomnia doesn’t just affect people’s sleep, it affects their lives. While the treatments to address this are already developed, they are not reaching the patients. 

“By encouraging holistic, evidence-based management, the aim of this important project is to improve our patient’s quality of life and improve the efficiency of NHS services.”