In the UK, around 93,000 (0.8%) children and young people (CYP) are experiencing specific phobias that have a substantial impact on daily life. The current gold-standard treatment—multi-session cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – is effective at reducing specific phobia severity; however, CBT is time consuming, requires specialist CBT therapists, and is often at great cost and limited availability. A briefer variant of CBT called one session treatment (OST) has been found to offer similar clinical effectiveness for specific phobia as multi-session CBT. The aim of this study was to assess the cost-effectiveness of OST compared to multi-session CBT for CYP with specific phobias through the Alleviating Specific Phobias Experienced by Children Trial (ASPECT), a two-arm, pragmatic, multi-centre, non-inferiority randomised controlled trial.
CYP aged seven to 16 years with specific phobias were recruited nationally via Health and Social Care pathways, remotely randomised to the intervention group (OST) or the control group (CBT-based therapies) and analysed (n = 267). Resource use based on NHS and personal social services perspective and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) measured by EQ-5D-Y were collected at baseline and at six-month follow-up. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was calculated, and non-parametric bootstrapping was conducted to capture the uncertainty around the ICER estimates. The results were presented on a cost-effectiveness acceptability curve (CEAC). A set of sensitivity analyses (including taking a societal perspective) were conducted to assess the robustness of the primary findings.
After adjustment and bootstrapping, on average CYP in the OST group incurred less costs (incremental cost was -£302.96 (95% CI -£598.86 to -£28.61)) and maintained similar improvement in QALYs (QALYs gained 0.002 (95% CI − 0.004 to 0.008)). The CEAC shows that the probability of OST being cost-effective was over 95% across all the WTP thresholds. Results of a set of sensitivity analyses were consistent with the primary outcomes.
Compared to CBT, OST produced a reduction in costs and maintained similar improvement in QALYs. Results from both primary and sensitivity analyses suggested that OST was highly likely to be cost saving.