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NHS Highland using VR headsets to help patients prepare for MRIs

NHS Highland and NES expand VR trial scheme with funding from The Health Foundation


NHS Highland in partnership with NHS Education for Scotland (NES) are launching an innovative new project that aims to make it easier for patients to undergo MRI scans with the help of virtual reality (VR).

Before going in for an MRI scan, patients will be given a virtual MRI experience using VR headsets. They will be able to see the MRI scanner up close and hear the noise it makes. It is hoped that this will help them become more comfortable with the process.

The project builds on a successful trial of the VR scheme in NHS Highland that saw headsets given to children who were preparing for scans. NHS Highland and NES have secured funding from independent charity The Health Foundation to expand the pilot scheme to include adults and evaluate its effectiveness.

Dr Jonathan Ashmore, clinical scientist at NHS Highland, said: “The claustrophobic and noisy environment of MRI can be difficult for some patients to tolerate. This can lead to decreased image quality or the scan needing to be stopped, which in turn results in delays to patient care and the need to re-do the scan under sedation or general anaesthetic.”

It is estimated that each year hundreds of adult patients across a number of healthcare settings are unable to complete an MRI scan due to claustrophobia. The teams at NHS Highland and NES hope that the VR experience will reduce the need for scans to be delayed or re-done.

Patients will be able to access the virtual reality MRI experience at the hospital, or remotely through an app for their phone and a VR headset that would be delivered to them by post.

The project has been awarded funding from The Health Foundation as part of their ‘Innovating for Improvement’ programme, which supports projects that look to improve health and social care delivery.

Sarah Henderson, Assistant Director of Improvement Programmes at the Health Foundation, said: “We’re excited to support this project, one of twenty three that have been developed by frontline teams to improve health and social care across the UK.

“We are looking forward to working with the teams to develop their innovative ideas, put them into practice, and gather evidence about how their projects are improving care for patients.”


Reference: PR2019-002

Further Information From:

NHS Education for Scotland
Ian Williamson, Senior Communications Officer
T: 0141 223 1574

NHS Highland
Erin Greig, Communications
T: 01463 705771

The Health Foundation
Bryony Hirsch, Marketing and Communications Officer
T: 020 7257 2069

Note to Editors
NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is a national special health board working to provide education, training and workforce development for those who work in and with NHSScotland. At any time, this means NES is responsible for over 6,500 trainee healthcare professionals and also supports the recruitment of professionals into Scotland.

About the Health Foundation

The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.