Ben Carrington

Director, Special Projects

Jan 17, 2023

AI mental health chatbot that predicts disorders with 93% accuracy becomes first in world to gain Class IIa UKCA medical device status

Limbic Access, a ground-breaking psychological assessment tool that can predict mental health disorders with an accuracy rate of 93%, has achieved Class IIa UKCA medical device certification – making it the first and only AI mental health chatbot in the world to earn this status for its clinical effectiveness, safety and risk management.

The certification confirms that Limbic Access, which uses sophisticated machine learning to continuously improve the quality of its digital assessments and conversations, can be safely incorporated into the psychological therapy pathway to support patient self-referral - driving significant efficiencies to support overstretched clinicians and improving patient outcomes. 

Limbic Access can classify the 8 common mental health disorders treated by NHS Talking Therapies (IAPTs) with an accuracy of 93%, further supporting therapists and augmenting the human-led clinical assessment.

Its certification comes as NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services are experiencing significant capacity challenges in the face of record demand – with latest data[1] showing a 21.5% increase in people accessing NHS talking therapies services over the last year.

Dr Ross Harper, co-founder and CEO of Limbic, the UK-based health tech company that created this mental health e-triage chatbot said: 'This is a landmark moment for mental healthcare, as it provides strong evidence that our psychological assessment software - the first in the world to gain this level of certification - is a safe and clinically effective way to augment the therapy process within mental health services at a time when such support has never been more needed.'

130,000 NHS patients have so far accessed psychological therapy using Limbic’s AI mental health chatbot, making it the most widely used solution of its kind in the NHS. UKCA auditors, SGS, reviewed clinical evidence generated from more than 60,000 referrals and found that, when compared with standard referral methods such as telephone calls and online forms.

Limbic Access helps deliver:

  • 45% fewer changes in treatment, due to increased triage accuracy

  • 23.5% reduction in assessment time - a saving of 12.7 minutes per referral 

  • 18% reduction in treatment dropouts

  • 13% reduction in wait time for assessment 

  • 5% shorter wait time for treatment 

Limbic Access is already working with 25% of NHS IAPTs to augment their therapy process and, to date, it is estimated to have saved IAPT services in England more than 30,000 clinical hours. At a time when the NHS is massively overburdened – latest data[2] shows a 16.2% increase in the number of people in contact with NHS mental health services over the last 12 months - this is critical time released for staff. 

Dr Harper continued: 'Limbic Access is reducing the workload for IAPT services by gathering information through a friendly, supportive chatbot conversation and using its machine learning capabilities to deliver effective triage. The result is that clinicians are more informed ahead of appointments and can spend more time focusing on the patient; services have less admin to complete, and patients enjoy shorter wait times and faster recovery. It’s win-win-win.

'There is one additional benefit too – one that helps explain why those services that have implemented Limbic Access see an increase in patient referrals. It can be daunting to take the first step to accessing mental health services, and patients often dread having to articulate their most sensitive thoughts and feelings over the phone to another human. The fact that Limbic is unashamedly an AI removes the pressure from that conversation, while the warm, supportive tone of the chatbot means they still get the benefits of the human experience, just without the worry.'

Andy Wright, chief operating officer of Insight IAPT, a not-for-profit organisation providing free talking therapies across the UK on behalf of the NHS, said: 

'At Insight IAPT, we embrace innovations that help us to deliver operationally and clinically excellent IAPT services. We have partnered with Limbic since 2021, which has allowed us to launch Limbic Access into all of our services. The majority of our referrals are digital; 90% of these now come via Limbic AI. When we launched Limbic AI on our website, we experienced an immediate 32% increase in access across our services. 

'Limbic AI has allowed patients to refer themselves at a time most convenient to them, and to book an appointment directly with a practitioner. This has been so popular and successful that 40% of our self-referrals are now received outside of our normal working hours. The overall impact of this has included assessments and treatment being offered more quickly, waiting times have reduced, and patients are more likely to complete their treatment. We are excited about working with Limbic to co-produce new innovations that will continue to improve our patients' experience.' 

Through Limbic Access and its sister product, Limbic Care – designed to provide personalised support and remote monitoring for patients in treatment – the rapidly growing tech company has created an end-to-end solution for talk therapy that’s designed to augment psychological therapy from start to finish.

As well as being the only Class IIa UKCA marked psychological assessment tool, Limbic Access was awarded the highest score of any level 4 mental health app by ORCHA, the UK’s leading healthcare app evaluation organisation. It is currently the only mental health e-triage chatbot to have been through ORCHA’s rigorous review process.

[1] NHS Digital press release – Sept 2022

[2] NHS Digital press release – Nov 2022