Digital therapies for tic disorders 

NICE are performing a technology assessment to look at digital enabled therapy for tic disorders in children and young people

NICE will assess digital therapies for tic disorders in children and young people to determine whether they can be recommended for use in the NHS, based on the available evidence and cost-saving potential. They are recruiting for a lay specialist committee and a medical technology advisory committee.

Tics are fast, repetitive muscle movements that result in difficult to control body movements or sounds. Some tics involve body movements (motor) or sounds (phonic). Examples of tics may include: blinking, grimacing, head jerking, head banging, finger clicking, coughing, grunting, sneezing, repeating a sound or phrase. Tics can lead to significant pain and discomfort and can cause distress. Young people may find that tic disorders can interfere with school and in their social lives. Around 70,000 children and young people in England have Tourette syndrome, the condition commonly associated with chronic tics. Tic disorders may be treated with provision of psychoeducation to children and their families, behavioural therapies (a branch of psychological therapies which may include Habit Reversal Training, Comprehensive Behavioural Intervention for Tics and Exposure and Response Prevention), or in some instances with medications.

There is a lack of trained specialists in the UK currently, resulting in only 20% of young people with tic disorders accessing behavioural therapy, and less than half of this group receiving the recommended number of sessions. Geographical inequality also means that face-to-face treatment is often not available, or people are on long waiting lists to then travel long distances for access. The use of new technologies could help ensure timely access to services such as, school mental health support teams, single point of access (SPA) teams, voluntary sector teams and children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS). It could also reduce inequalities by reducing variations in access to care.

Using digitally enabled therapy may reduce the need to take medication and reduce the associated adverse effects with these medicines. The NICE health technology assessment will evaluate innovative digitally enabled therapies for tics. It will review the evidence that is available and assess the potential clinical and cost-effectiveness of the technologies, as well as identifying evidence gaps to help direct data collection.

Email for more information, or register as a stakeholder to give your views.

Watch Tourettes Action CEO Emma McNally discussing living with Tourettes on BBC Breakfast.