News, NHS trust

VR tech to support psychosis patients demonstrates positive findings in Early Value Assessment

A VR therapy has received a positive Early Value Assessment from NICE, with a clinical trial taking place at NHS trusts including Greater Manchester Mental Health (GMMH) NHS Foundation Trust demonstrating that the technology “led to reductions in anxiety and distress in everyday situations compared with usual care alone”.

The gameChange VR therapy is designed for people living with psychosis whose fears have led to them becoming largely housebound and who are facing difficulties with everyday tasks. The automated therapy programme enables individuals to practise everyday situations through virtual simulations, delivered in six 30-minute sessions, with the support of a trained member of gameChange staff if required.

The clinical trial is being followed up with a real-world pilot project at GMMH with the support of early intervention in psychosis and community mental health teams from the trust, alongside a service user researcher and a clinical psychologist.

John Sainsbury, innovation manager at GMMH, said that the trust’s involvement in the study “has been invaluable in supporting the translation of gameChange VR therapy into the real-world setting. Our peer support workers, assistant psychologists, STR workers and wellbeing practitioners have been educating staff on the theory of exposure therapy, role playing the use of VR headsets and gC environments, supporting services user to think about how to apply what they have experienced in VR, and how they faced their fears in the comfort of their own home, to the world beyond their front door.”

John added that “many service users have reported benefits and changes in their levels of agoraphobia as a result of using gameChange”, with some experiencing “life changing boosts in confidence and changes in their underlying beliefs which cause agoraphobia, as well as a change in the avoidant behaviour which may have been maintaining their housebound situation.”

He concluded: “There are enablers and challenges to the implementation of gameChange, but we are looking forward to continuing our pilot study and reporting on this in 2024.”

In other news from Greater Manchester, Health Innovation Manchester has published The Greater Manchester Health and Care Digital Transformation Strategy on behalf of Greater Manchester NHS and social care partners, highlighting five key ambitions to deliver integrated, coordinated care; enable efficient and productive working; empower citizens; understand and act upon population health needs; and accelerate research and innovation into practice.

On VR technology, Barnsley children’s and adult’s speech and language therapy team at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is utilising virtual reality software with the aim of supporting children and young people who stammer, providing them with an immersive environment in which to practise “everyday speaking situations in a safe space with the support of a therapist”.