Royal Trinity Hospice has launched a research study to explore the potential of virtual reality as a therapy for people at the end of life. The year long study, run in partnership with Flix Films, will assess the impact of virtual reality on 20 people’s experience of physical and psychological symptoms.

Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which generates computerised or realistic 3D and 360-degree images and sounds that give the viewer a sense of physical presence in that environment through the use of a headset and headphones.

Existing research has found that virtual reality can help reduce anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and pain in people living with a variety of illnesses and conditions including children with cancer and people with burn wounds. However this research is the first of its kind to assess the potential therapeutic benefit of VR for people receiving palliative care.

Letizia Perna-Forrest, Head of Patient and Family Support at Trinity said, “Our initial trials with VR enabled people to achieve their bucket lists wishes from their bed in the hospice, like walking in the desert or seeing the northern lights. But the more we researched into the world of VR, the more we felt there was scope to use this as a therapy.

Through our study we aim to understand how VR impacts on the symptom management of people receiving palliative care.  We believe VR has the potential in future to be included in the holistic suite of supportive therapies, alongside counselling, reiki, art therapy, and physiotherapy.” 

Leon Ancliffe, Director at Flix Films, said “To be a part of this project and to be able to give people the chance to experience something special at this time of their life is an absolute privilege.”

The research study is funded by Trinity with pro bono support from Flix Films. It has received full external ethical approval. If you would like to take part in the study or to know more, please contact Letizia on [email protected] or telephone 020 7787 1000.