Virtual reality’s magical world for young patients

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Children in hospitals are being allowed to visit magical worlds and experience new adventures using a virtual reality (VR) headset.

The VR therapy kit cost £6,000 and was funded by Salisbury Hospital’s charity, the Stars Appeal.

It is helping patients in Sarum Children’s Ward feel calmer and make their time in the hospital more fun.

The headset creates three-dimensional worlds for children to explore in a variety of expeditions including a visit to space and a Jurassic safari.

Mum, Charlotte, sat next to her daughter's hospital bed and holds her daughter's hand
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Mum, Charlotte, and Freya had their first VR experience

Freya, who is eight years old, had her tonsils removed the day before her first experience using the VR headset.

Her mum, Charlotte, told BBC Radio Wiltshire: “The hospital environment can be daunting, parents do everything they can to try and make it as comfortable as possible.

“But an experience like that has got her talking and just brought her out of herself, which I’m grateful for.”

Play Assistant, Emma Lewis, shows Charlotte Cummings what her daughter, Freya, is seeing in the headset as they sit next to Freya's hospital bed
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Play assistant, Emma Lewis, shows Charlotte what her daughter is seeing in the headset

Play assistant, Emma Lewis uses the kit across the hospital.

She said: “It’s an amazing bit of kit.

“It’s brilliant for distracting children who are anxious before a procedure but also when they’re having a procedure.

“If they’ve got that (VR headset) on their head, they get immersed in a different world.”

Doctor Chris Anderson, Paediatric Consultant on Sarum Ward smiling wearing grey scrubs with a green stethoscope around his neck
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Paediatric consultant, Dr Chris Anderson, said the headsets have been specially designed for hospitals

Dr Chris Anderson is a paediatric consultant in Sarum Ward. He said: “It’s immersive, it gives them something else to think about.

“If you use that in combination with something like numbing cream, there’s a reasonably good chance that blood tests and things can be completely pain-free, which I think is amazing.”

At £6,000 there are cheaper VR headsets on the market, but Dr Anderson thinks it is worth the price tag.

“It’s been designed for hospitals,” he said.

“The kit is easy to clean and easy to sterilize.

“But also it’s been designed to reduce the motion sickness which you can sometimes get with normal VR work.

“The last thing you need if you’re having something painful and worrying done is to feel a little bit sick every time you move your head.

“We think it’s brilliant.”

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