Health Education England (HEE) has joined forces with NHS England’s National Health and Justice team to develop a virtual reality (VR) app allowing nurses to experience what a role working in an adult prison would be like.

The VR360 app delivers an overview of what it’s like working in a prison healthcare setting, including the challenges and the benefits. The app includes a series of interviews with a mental health nurse, a healthcare officer and a GP to explain more about healthcare with prisons.

Patricia Howe, simulation and immersive technologies programme manager in the technology enhanced learning team at HEE, said: “Immersive learning experiences can play a significant role in helping people considering a placement setting or career change to make an informed decision to what their new role might look like.

“The immersive technology of the VR360 app offers the closest possible experience outside a real-life prison environment.”

The immersive app also includes five real-life scenarios based on interactions between patients and practitioners. Users can choose the most appropriate action relating to issues around prescriptions and referrals to hospital.

Ellie Gordon, senior nurse for learning disability and mental health, national nursing and midwifery directorate at HEE, said: “We wanted to be able to show students that prison clinic rooms look like any other clinic room, and a prisoner is a person with health needs, it’s just in a different setting.

“Once you get used to having the headset on and let yourself relax, it is a transformative experience, and you feel as if you have been transported into a prison clinic room.”

The app was co-developed by HEE’s national nursing and midwifery directorate and can be accessed and downloaded for the HEE elearning for healthcare hub.

NHS England and NHS Improvement boosted access to healthcare for prisoners in 2020, when it signed a deal with health tech company Visionable to provide specialist video consultations for prisoners, allowing them to speak securely to consultants remotely.