An app which helps children during their stay at hospital has been introduced at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

The Alder Play app uses gaming and augmented reality to distract patients from procedures.

Youngsters can choose and name their own avatar which helps them understand their hospital visit before they arrive and help to calm them during their stay.

The avatar can pop up at different points around the hospital and help patients collect virtual rewards following procedures, which eventually leads to accessing new content.

The Alder Play app was an original idea of consultant paediatric radiologist Nik Barnes who said the vision was help “transform” the experience for children in hospital.

“We wanted to distract patients during procedures, and reduce their worries and fears,” Barnes explained.

“Rewarding children following procedures and treatments was another vital element as it helps to encourage their progress.

“Rewards can be given for something as simple as having a dressing changed, to getting out of bed after an operation or having a scan.”

The Alder Play app was funded by a number of groups including the Alder Hey Children’s Charity, Shop Direct, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and NHS England.

During the development process, the team behind the app also sort help from Niamh Banres, who suggested an app should be created to help distract children while she was a patient at the hospital, aged seven.

Five years later, Niamh, who is now 12, said it was “exciting” to see the app come to life.

As well as providing some much-needed fun for children while they are in hospital, the Alder Play app can also be used by adults.

Parents can interact with a chat-bot called Oli and ask him questions about the hospital and what will be happening to their child during their hospital stay.

The app is available for iPhone and Android phone via the app store.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, which is one of 16 English NHS hospital global digital exemplars, is not the only hospital to use technology to help children during their hospital stay.

In February, Digital Health News reported on how King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust created a virtual reality app to reassure children before they have an MRI scan.