A hospice in west London is using virtual reality (VR) technology to help its patients manage anxiety and pain.
Meadow House, a 15-bed inpatient unit and day hospice located at Ealing Hospital, has been trialling the use of VR headsets for the past month.
The service, which is managed by London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, provides specialist palliative care and support to patients and their families in the London boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow.
Specialist nurse Jennifer Draper said it had been popular with both in-house and day patients, offering 10 seven-minute VR experiences including outer space, underwater and wildlife adventures.
Draper said: “It is primarily a distraction tool to help manage pain and has come from America where it has seen widespread use in tackling the opioid epidemic.
“It has a different use here but the distraction technique is still the same as many of our patients live with pain, despite medication. It relieves anxiety and aids relaxation and breathing.”
Virtual reality already has several uses in healthcare, including helping patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and as a treatment for vertigo.
In June, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Bournemouth University launched a VR app to improve carers’ understanding of the symptoms and challenges of dementia.
In some cases, it has been used to guide patients through upcoming surgical procedures using a VR reconstruction of their anatomy, and for training surgeons.
The technology used by London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust has come from Cardiff-based company Rescape.
Meadow House patient Joy Pilgrim said: “I’ve been into space today, walked with penguins in the Arctic and seen the Great Wall of China and the Egyptian Pyramids.
“It’s a fantastic. I’ve never experienced virtual reality before and it just blew me away.”