Following a successful three-year pilot project, NHS 24 is extending its specialist support service, NHS Living Life Guided Self Help, to the whole of Scotland.

With support from the Scottish Government, a free, confidential service, based on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach, is available to anyone suffering low mood, mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety.

Patients from all GP practices across the NHS Western Isles and NHS Shetland participated in the pilot, with patients from a selection of practices across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian, NHS Highland and NHS Borders also taking part.

Through Guided Self Help (GSH), individuals learn to change their way of thinking, helping them react more positively to situations, whilst boosting self-esteem and confidence.

NHS 24 Medical Director, Dr George Crooks said "With around 300,000 patients seeking help from their GP for depressive symptoms annually in Scotland, this service is an empowering and practical way for patients to get information, access resources and learn coping skills with a self-help coach. Being able to access this type of support in the privacy of your own home at a time that suits you brings real benefits to the people of Scotland".

Self-help coaches guide individuals through a series of self-help workbooks, in a structured format based on a CBT approach, to help them understand some of the reasons why they are feeling low, depressed or anxious. The workbooks serve to remind individuals about coping mechanisms they may have forgotten and help teach individuals new ways of coping in their life. The sessions are fortnightly over a period of approximately six to twelve weeks at a time suitable to the individual.

Margaret Finnerty, NHS Living Life Team Leader explained: "We have had tremendous feedback on the service over the past three years and are delighted that the Guided Self Help service is now available nationally. It gives people, and particularly those living in remote and rural areas or those who have difficulty in travelling for a face-to-face appointment, equal access to therapeutic care. We also offer the service in the evenings, which allows access outside of normal working hours for many people."

The Living Life team includes self help coaches from a wide range of professional backgrounds, coupled with support staff, who arrange appointments for patients. It is anticipated that many people across Scotland will benefit from access to the service, which also aims to work closely with GPs to monitor the progress of patients.

Patient feedback to the service has been very positive, with one explaining: "I found the booklets very useful and I liked they were a manageable size to work through; my guided self-help coach was extremely friendly and easy to talk to, which helped me open up and understand why I was feeling the way I was."

Living Life is part of a range of person centred services provided by NHS 24 to improve access to mental health services to the people of Scotland. Living Life Guided Self Help is a key component of NHS 24's mental health strategic framework, which is being spearheaded by consultant psychiatrist Dr Stella Clark.

The service is available to anyone over the age of 16 and can be accessed either by GP referral or by phoning the number directly on 0800 328 9655. The service is available Monday to Friday 1pm - 9pm. Callers are asked to provide some details and then arrangements are made to receive an assessment appointment to discuss the service and how help can be provided.