PATIENTS at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children have become the first in Scotland to trial virtual reality headsets.
The children have been transported into space, swum through shipwrecks and fought off robotic spiders while wearing the devices – which can be used individually or can be linked up to a separate monitor to allow their families and staff members to join in.
The aim of the programme is to relieve children’s worries in stressful situations and make them feel more comfortable in their surroundings.
The city hospital is the first to have the trial conducted by Specsavers’ Iain McFadyen who will use the patient feedback to adapt the headsets for use in other Scottish hospitals.
The headsets offer a variety of virtual selections to transport the user on far flung adventures, but also have everyday options such as the beach and the British Museum to ensure young patients don’t feel they are missing out on these activities.
Fiona O’Sullivan, arts programme manager at ECHC, said: “We are so grateful to Iain for trialing the headset at the RHSC. The children are all really enjoying it and we’ve had some hugely positive feedback so far.
“The headsets are a fantastic way to help young patients feel less anxious in a hospital environment.
“Once they have them on, the kids become completely immersed in the virtual world.
“It’s a great release not only for the patients but also for their families too, and it’s wonderful that we’re able to bring them such a fun activity that everyone can get involved with.
“This is just one of the many activities that we provide to ensure children and young people’s lives are less interrupted by illness; they are less scared of the hospital environment and have a more positive experience and it’s been a huge success so far.”
Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) and Specsavers in partnership came up with the idea of the headsets for all ages.
Last year, pupils at Wardie Primary School were given the chance to explore virtual reality. Around 300 children were given cardboard headsets as part of the Google Expeditions initiative, which aims to take students to places they would never be able to access on your average field trip.
Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and has contributed over £3 million towards its move to a new, purpose-built home in Little France in 2018.
Last month, the Evening News reported on the £5m plan to erect stained glass windows, musical installations and artwork for the new building.
The project collaborated directly with patients and their families to create a unique and therapeutic design programme suited to their needs.
The project is the largest capital commissioning programme for art in a new hospital in the UK.
It is being financed by £3.1m funding from the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and an additional £2m from the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.