South London and Maudsley uses virtual reality for needle phobia and anxiety | Press releases

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South London and Maudsley uses virtual reality for needle phobia and anxiety

People with needle phobia and anxiety are benefitting from the pioneering use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in mental health.

The digital innovation team at South London and Maudsley has partnered with the vaccination team and other clinical teams to use virtual reality to help people with needle phobia.

Needle phobia is a fear of medical procedures which involve needles or injections. It is common, affecting around one in ten people.

South London and Maudsley acquired and deployed six medical VR glasses and VR applications for across its vaccination sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Oliver Soriano, Associate Chief Nursing Officer: said: “Using VR technology enables us to support people who use our services to work through their fear in a controlled and safe environment. This has had amazing results for people with needle phobia, particularly during the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Our goal is to improve health outcomes and patient experience using AR and VR and maximise the benefits this technology can bring across all our clinical pathways in the organisation.”

The vaccination team at South London and Maudsley

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust was the first mental health trust to use the AR and VR to support service users and members of staff.

The technology will help people with anxiety disorders, as well as phobias.

Milos Kresojevic, Senior Innovation Architect at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are now starting to develop our own VR applications specifically for mental health and expand our portfolio in this area.

“We are passionate about using technology which we know will have a direct impact on patient care – this is really exciting work which has huge potential to change lives.”

Stuart MacLellan, Acting Chief Information Officer at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are working to deliver our strategic aim to provide outstanding mental health care, as outlined in our five-year strategy Aiming High; Changing Lives. Our digital strategy is vital part of this, which includes harnessing digital innovations, reducing digital exclusion and enabling people to adopt technology to improve our services.

“Embracing and using AR/VR to its fullest potential is a huge step forward for us and we are proud to supporting the Trust’s strategy.”

South London and Maudsley’s Digital Innovation Team has been awarded matched funding by NHS Digital to pursue AR/VR innovation within the portfolio.

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