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Improving acute ward reality through Virtual Reality

Image of woman with Virtual Reality Headset on

Introducing the TREE study: Reducing The use of REstrictive practices on psychiatric wards through Virtual REality immersive technology training: A Virtual Reality Feasibility Study.

Restrictive practices, which include the use of restraint, rapid tranquilisation and isolation, should be used only as a last resort on acute medical wards. The use of such practices have the potential to cause harm to both patient and staff, and thus a reduction in the frequency of their use could improve service user and staff experience, as well as increase safety on psychiatric wards.

The TREE study, led by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, aimed to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of using virtual reality for providing a reduction in restrictive practice (RRP) training programme to inpatient mental health staff, compared to standard face-to-face RRP and/e-learning training.

The study, which started in August 2022, demonstrates the advantages of Virtual Reality in being able to place a user into a realistic and immersive environment and therefore, in this case, provide the opportunity for staff to safely experience training in reducing restrictive practices.

Providing this training using innovative digital delivery gave staff the opportunity to understand and practice tasks and procedures without the need to include a live patient. It also provided staff with a better understanding of what the patient experiences at the receiving end of restrictive practices. Whilst staff always operate with the thought of patient safety and patient care in mind, gaining perspective can help improve care and practices.

There are many exciting learnings and developments to take forward from this study. Next month, we interview Joe Salmon, Research Delivery Lead Nurse, Research and Innovation, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust to find out a little bit more.

In the meantime, if you want to get in touch with the team, email