Landmark trial of NHS staff by King’s College London reveals promising solution to improve mental health

  • The largest known study of its kind researching the use of a mental health and wellbeing app in a healthcare worker population

  • Use of the Koa Foundations app was associated with an improvement in general mental health and wellbeing

  • Researchers suggest that evidence for app-based care is promising as it could easily be scaled up and form part of a tiered staff support package.

Koa Health
Publish Date

London, September 6, 2022: New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London has found that the mental health and wellbeing of frontline NHS healthcare workers can be supported and improved through the use of the ‘Koa Foundations’ mental health and wellbeing smartphone application.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that use of the app by clinical and non-clinical health care workers in England was associated with a statistically significant improvement in mental health and wellbeing, as well as a decrease in the likelihood of experiencing insomnia.

Over a thousand healthcare workers across England were recruited from staff currently participating in NHS Check, the UK's largest survey of the mental health and wellbeing of NHS staff during Covid-19. Around half of the participants were provided access to the Koa Foundations app and were followed up with surveys at four and eight weeks of use.

The researchers found that use of the app was associated with a significant reduction in symptoms of behavioral or intellectual distress at each of the follow ups, with the effects most strongly seen in women, clinical staff, and younger participants.

Professor Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s IoPPN and the study’s senior author said, “The Covid-19 pandemic introduced a period of unparalleled pressure on frontline healthcare workers; pressure which arguably remains today. Many organizations have admirably sought to support staff during the pandemic through a range of initiatives, however, there has so far been a lack of evidence as to what works and for whom. Our study established that a smartphone based mental health support for health workers can be of help”.

Dr Sam Gnanapragasam, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry at King’s IoPPN and the study’s first author said, “Working patterns can make it difficult for health workers to find a consistent time to get help, while the lack of anonymity when asking for help can put off many from even trying in the first place. The study is promising as it suggests that a smartphone based mental health solution can overcome some of these traditional barriers to help staff who use it”.

Dr. Ben Carter, Reader at King’s IoPPN and study senior statistician, said “The results show the app offered an improvement in symptoms. This is promising as we have undertaken a large robust randomised controlled trial, which enrolled a typical healthcare worker population with a range of symptoms. This means the findings are likely to be generalizable to the hospital workforce across the UK. Going forward the app could be offered throughout the UK with ease and at scale to provide an effective intervention to support our NHS workforce.”

Dr. Oliver Harrison, CEO of Koa Health says, “The pandemic has been one of the most stressful peacetime eras in living memory. It is no secret the pressure it put on the NHS and the healthcare workers that worked tirelessly to save lives. Pre-pandemic the NHS was already over stretched with a lack of available clinicians to meet the wide-scale mental health demands of the population. Evidence-based, clinically validated digital mental health tools present the only scalable way to combat this crisis. These promising results show that Koa Foundations can serve as an effective tool for improving the mental health and wellbeing of NHS healthcare workers, in some cases significantly. We look forward to further investigating how Koa Foundations can help meet the mental health needs of all those in need of support.”

Co-investigator, Professor Rosalind Raine (UCL Department of Applied Health Research), said: “It’s crucial that we support frontline NHS healthcare workers. Our randomized trial provides the gold standard evidence for the apps positive impact on general mental health which can help hard-pressed staff seeking help”.

This study was possible thanks to funding from Koa Foundations.


For more information, please contact Patrick O’Brien (Senior Media Officer) at

Multicentre, England-wide randomized controlled trial of the ‘Koa Foundations’ smartphone application in improving mental health and well-being in a healthcare worker population (DOI10.1192/bjp.2022.103) (Sam N. Gnanapragasam, Rose Tinch-Taylor, Hannah R. Scott, Siobhan Hegarty, Emilia Souliou, Rupa Bhundia, Danielle Lamb, Danny Weston, Neil Greenberg, Ira Madan, Sharon Stevelink, Rosalind Raine, Ben Carter and Simon Wessely) was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

About King’s College London

King's College London is one of the top 35 UK universities in the world and one of the top 10 in Europe (QS World University Rankings, 2020/21) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 31,000 students (including more than 12,800 postgraduates) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 8,500 staff.

King's has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), eighty-four per cent of research at King’s was deemed ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (3* and 4*).

Since our foundation, King’s students and staff have dedicated themselves in the service of society. King’s will continue to focus on world-leading education, research and service, and will have an increasingly proactive role to play in a more interconnected, complex world. Visit our website to find out more about Vision 2029, King's strategic vision to take the university to the 200th anniversary of its founding.

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About UCL – London’s Global University

UCL is a diverse global community of world-class academics, students, industry links, external partners, and alumni. Our powerful collective of individuals and institutions work together to explore new possibilities.

Since 1826, we have championed independent thought by attracting and nurturing the world's best minds. Our community of more than 43,800 students from 150 countries and over 14,300 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL. | Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Read news at | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds

About Koa Health

Koa Health is a leading digital platform for workplace mental health, helping business leaders care for high-performing teams. It offers personalized solutions with proven user outcomes from improving mental wellbeing to supporting treatment for a range of common mental disorders. Backed by investors including Telefónica, Ancora Finance Group and Wellington Partners, Koa Health leverages technology and research to enable people to change their behaviors with effective and accessible support that adapts to their unique circumstances.

Headquartered in the Netherlands, Koa Health has operations in Barcelona, the US and the UK. Koa Health partners with leading clinicians and academics including Massachusetts General Hospital, University College of London, the London School of Economics, and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

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