Virtual reality project at Chelsea and Westminster to support pregnancy loss

CW+, the official charity of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has announced a new addition to their innovation programme with the launch of Eirene, a virtual reality project set to support women who experience loss in the early stage of pregnancy.

Eirene was conceptualised by Natalie Nunes, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Lauren Trepte, Research Midwife, at West Middlesex University Hospital. It aims to support women by lessening anxiety and lowering their pain score through the use of a Smileyscope virtual reality (VR) headset during their Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) procedure.

The Smileyscope VR experience immerses women in a nature scene or an immersive breathing exercise accompanied by soothing music, whilst still allowing them to hear the clinical team offering support and helping them to focus on their thoughts and breathing.

The project is part of the CW Innovation programme, a joint initiative between CW+ and the trust. The programme identifies, tests and evaluates new solutions to improve patient care and experience, and the way that the trust hospitals are run.

Lauren Trepte said that the project “hopefully improves mental health outcomes” for patients, whilst Natalie Nunes commented: “We also hope to reduce health inequalities as use is not dependent on someone’s command of the English language. Women for whom English is not their first language can still utilise the headsets and have the full experience that an English-speaking woman would have.”

Chris Chaney, Chief Executive Officer at CW+, said: “We are delighted that through the CW+ Nurses’ Call 2021, we have helped launch Eirene which uses state-of-the-art technology to help alleviate pain and anxiety to improve women’s health and wellbeing.  Eirene has now joined our extensive portfolio of CW Innovation projects, and we remain committed to incorporating innovation into our thinking.  It’s so important for staff to share ideas and that they are fully supported to bring them to fruition like the Eirene project, which is helping deliver better patient experience and care.”

Smileyscope technology is being used in various other medical settings across the world, including supporting people with a phobia of needles at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and helping children experiencing long medical procedures in Perth.