Methods and findings: This study was approved by the National Research Ethics Service Committee North West–Lancaster (reference number 11/NW/0276). All participants provided informed consent to take part in the trial. We conducted a 3-arm, multicentre randomised controlled trial in primary- and secondary-care United Kingdom mental health services. All patients were on a waiting list for therapist-led CBT (treatment as usual). Four hundred and seventy-three eligible patients were recruited and randomised. Patients had a median age of 33 years, and 60% were female. The majority were experiencing severe OCD. Patients received 1 of 2 low-intensity interventions: computerised CBT (cCBT; web-based CBT materials and limited telephone support) through “OCFighter” or guided self-help (written CBT materials with limited telephone or face-to-face support). Primary comparisons concerned OCD symptoms, measured using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale–Observer-Rated (Y-BOCS-OR) at 3, 6, and 12 months. Secondary outcomes included health-related quality of life, depression, anxiety, and functioning. At 3 months, guided self-help demonstrated modest benefits over the waiting list in reducing OCD symptoms (adjusted mean difference = −1.91, 95% CI −3.27 to −0.55). These effects did not reach a prespecified level of “clinically significant benefit.” cCBT did not demonstrate significant benefit (adjusted mean difference = −0.71, 95% CI −2.12 to 0.70). At 12 months, neither guided self-help nor cCBT led to differences in OCD symptoms. Early access to low-intensity interventions led to significant reductions in uptake of high-intensity CBT over 12 months; 86% of the patients allocated to the waiting list for high-intensity CBT started treatment by the end of the trial, compared to 62% in supported cCBT and 57% in guided self-help. These reductions did not compromise longer-term patient outcomes. Data suggested small differences in satisfaction at 3 months, with patients more satisfied with guided self-help than supported cCBT. A significant issue in the interpretation of the results concerns the level of access to high-intensity CBT before the primary outcome assessment.
Conclusions: We have demonstrated that providing low-intensity interventions does not lead to clinically significant benefits but may reduce uptake of therapist-led CBT.