News, NHS trust

The Christie exploring potential of VR to reduce anxiety for children undergoing radiotherapy

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has launched a two year project to explore whether using virtual reality can help to reduce anxiety for children undergoing cancer treatment, using a headset classed as a grade 1 medical device specially designed for young people aged seven to 16.

The project will see data being collected to help understand the difference that distraction therapy is making to the patient’s journey, with children being asked to complete a “sliding scale of face emojis” both before and after having the treatment, representing a range of emotions from happy to scared.

Children visiting the hospital for procedures including cannulation, injections, blood tests and radiation treatment are making use of the device, which offers them virtual reality experiences across themes such as under the sea. A team of play specialists are currently delivering the project, as part of their role using specialised play techniques to prepare children for treatment.

According to data gathered so far, results hare said to be encouraging, with patients reporting a 45 percent reduction in anxiety following their use of the device.

Penelope Hart-Spencer, a play specialist leading the project, said: “We want to ensure that children and young people have the best experience while they’re with us. We’re with them from their first appointment and tailor our approach to meet their individual needs. We’ve had situations where patients can continue with treatment because of the VR. We’re excited about the potential of this technology.”

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.

And elsewhere, 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.