News, NHS trust

Chemotherapy patients at Royal Free offered “immersive calming visuals” with VR headsets

Chemotherapy patients at Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust are being offered “immersive calming visuals” using VR headsets with the intention of helping to calm anxiety and pass time whilst having their treatment.

The Eden virtual reality system with handheld VR headsets are being used at Chase Farm Hospital and Finchley Memorial Hospital, providing patients with the immersive visuals and settings to explore during their chemotherapy session. Users can select from experiences including ‘Mission Mars’, ‘Mountain Vistas’, and ‘Escape to the Islands’.

Patients have provided positive feedback so far, praising the user friendly nature of the headsets and the support in explaining the technology from volunteers in place to help. The volunteers have been asking patients to complete a questionnaire after using the headsets in order to gather feedback.

Flore Dohmatob, senior sister, welcomed the initiative, remarking that patients using the VR headsets whilst having treatment seem “more relaxed”.

Jon Spiers, chief executive of the Royal Free Charity, which has funded the headsets, said: “The VR therapy project was made possible because our local supporters responded to our Bring the Future Forward fundraising appeal; it’s thanks to their donations that we were able to fund the VR kits and it’s thanks to our wonderful volunteers that we can offer it to patients as a distraction during their treatment.”

In related news from the region, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust has also shared insight into an electrocardiographic imaging (ECGI) vest developed by their researchers alongside a research team from University College London, which sees electrical data from 256 sensors combined with MRI images to generate 3D digital models of the heart and its electrical activity.

Also on virtual reality, a pilot scheme at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) has trialled the use of VR training for medical students, using a computer-generated scenario in which participants can virtually interact with patients, administer tests, ask patients questions, interact with other medical professionals, diagnose and provide medication.