Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For health information and advice, read our pages on coronavirus. Learn about the government response to coronavirus on GOV.UK

Recruitment restarts on virtual reality trial

Posted: 10/12/20

Recruitment has restarted on a clinical trial which tests whether virtual reality (VR) based psychological therapy could help people with psychosis overcome anxiety.

The ‘gameChange’ study initially began in 2019 and restarted in September of this year, with 25 potential spaces to take part.

The largest ever clinical trial of virtual reality for a mental health disorder, the study is led nationally by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and is delivered by partners including Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), and Newcastle University.

The study is for people with psychosis whose fears mean that everyday tasks, such as getting on a bus or doing the shopping, are a challenge. It is hoped that VR technology may be able to transform NHS provision of psychological therapy.

Dr Rob Dudley, Consultant Clinical Psychologst and lead for the gameChange VR study at CNTW, said: “Many people with psychosis find it hard to cope with busy social situations. By using virtual reality technology treatment people can experience feared places like a local shop, café or GP surgery in a virtual environment which feels real enough to allow people to learn how to manage, but still safe.

“We have been delighted by the retention rate so far, with over 95% of participants engaging for the full six months. We recently celebrated 60 participants and very much hope that more people will be able to take this learning into the real world, letting them do more whilst feeling less anxious or distressed around others.”

People taking part in the survey will be provided with a series of 30-minute sessions using VR technology, with a virtual coach guiding them in how to overcome their fears.

The technology allows participants to practise at their own pace the experience of a range of everyday situations with information on how to overcome anxiety. It aims to help patients re-engage with the world and go into everyday situations feeling more confident and in control.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research, half of the participants receive VR therapy and half do not to find out whether the VR therapy works.

To be a participant, individuals need to be in receipt of care from one of CNTW’s psychosis pathways, from community mental health and treatment teams, inpatient settings or Early Intervention in Psychosis services.

Staff worked closely with service users who have had support from NHS mental health services, to support the study, trial the VR equipment and act as a steering group providing oversight for the study.

The study is now offering remote screenings and assessments to participants. All VR therapy is delivered in line with Covid-19 guidance.

Recruitment for the study is ongoing until April 2021. For more information or to take part, contact maryam.pervez@cntw.nhs.uk / 07824800777 or naomi.coulthard@cntw.nhs.uk 07920244018

For more information on the gameChange study visit the project website at www.gamechangevr.com