Using virtual reality therapy

Transitioning from innovation to implementation – an example of how digital therapy has been brought into everyday healthcare

Phillipa Newton-Cross is physiotherapist service lead, pain rehabilitation team
Phillipa Newton-Cross is physiotherapist service lead, pain rehabilitation team

At Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, we are using tele rehab and virtual reality (VR) therapies for people with chronic pain. We were awarded £29,000 from the trust League of Friends to support a clinical rehabilitation pathway using VR technology.

Twenty per cent of adults suffer with chronic pain, with less than one per cent having access to pain management services. Emerging from Covid-19 we continue to use tele rehab to deliver 60 per cent of our therapy. We needed to think creatively to be resource-efficient to start seeing more people in person again. 

We are using German CUREO VR therapy systems in outpatient clinics to offer therapeutic exercise, using immersive tasks, and cognitive techniques, to stimulate the nervous system and activate neural pattern formation. 

There are six modules that can be modified and tailored to suit individual needs. 

The aim is to enhance motivation and improve movement patterns.

We have been amazed at patients’ responses to this treatment approach – helping them to turn their lives around – showing improvements in mood, anxiety, return to meaningful activities and unexpectedly, pain relief. 

Implementing new patient-facing technology in the NHS is not for the faint hearted! It is essential to gather a team around you, which includes patients with lived experience of pain and understanding managers. We are grateful to the specialist teams who have been on this journey with us, including the Digital Futures Team, IT help-desk and network teams, procurement, health and safety, and infection control. 

We believe digital and virtual reality therapy is the way forward to future-proof the continued delivery of effective, high-quality healthcare. 

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