NHS Highland has launched a new project which uses virtual reality (VR) to help patients prepare for upcoming MRI scans in Scotland.

The project, launched in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland, aims to make the confronting scans more bearable for patients.

Before going in for an MRI scan, patients will be given a virtual MRI experience using VR headsets.

They will be able to see the MRI scanner up close and hear the noise it makes in the hope it will help them become more comfortable with the procedure.

Dr Jonathan Ashmore, clinical scientist at NHS Highland, said: “The claustrophobic and noisy environment of MRI can be difficult for some patients to tolerate.

“This can lead to decreased image quality or the scan needing to be stopped, which in turn results in delays to patient care and the need to re-do the scan under sedation or general anaesthetic.”

Patients will be able to access the virtual reality technology at the hospital or through an app on their phone after a virtual reality headset is delivered to the by post.

The project follows on from a successful trial of the virtual reality scheme in NHS Highland that gave the headsets to children preparing for scans.

Funding for the pilot project to be expanded to adults was provided by The Health Foundation as part of their “Innovating for Improvement” programme.

A similar project has been developed for children at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.

The ‘My MRI at Kings’ VR app, also allows patients to see a panoramic 360 degree video.