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Patients receiving chemotherapy at Chase Farm Hospital (CFH) and Finchley Memorial Hospital have been benefitting from a new way to pass time during their treatment in the form of virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Funded by the Royal Free Charity, the VR headsets provide patients with immersive calming visuals and settings which they explore while completing their course of chemotherapy.

John Ryan (pictured) is a patient at CFH who has used the Eden virtual reality system, made up of a main control station and handheld headset. The user selects their preferred immersive experience, with options including ‘Mission Mars’, ‘Mountain Vistas’ and ‘Escape to the Islands’, and simply holds the headset to their eyes.

“I used it at my very first chemo session, and it was very well explained to me what it was going to be like,” John said.

“If you are anxious coming in to have chemo, it is very relaxing. I normally bring a book with me or watch something on my phone, so this is a nice addition to have during the three-hour chemo session. The 3D setting might be a little disorienting at first, but it is very user friendly so you quickly get used to them.

“The volunteers have been really good here making us cups of tea along with supporting us with the headsets, so I want to give a huge thank you to them.”

“We let patients know about any concerns like motion sickness and afterward we ask them to complete a questionnaire to gather their feedback, which has been really positive so far," said Esther, one of the volunteers.

Flore Dohmatob, senior sister, welcomed the initiative in the chemo suite.

“The outcome for patients has been very good,” Flore said. “They are more relaxed and the headsets help with reducing stress.

“I had one patient tell me he felt as if he wasn’t having treatment. We have TVs here, and some patients decide to read, so this is just another offering to improve patient experience. Thank you to the Royal Free Charity for introducing them to the suite.”

Jon Spiers, chief executive of the Royal Free Charity, said:

“The VR therapy project was made possible because our local supporters responded to our Bring the Future Forward fundraising appeal; it’s thanks to their donations that we were able to fund the VR kits and it’s thanks to our wonderful volunteers that we can offer it to patients as a distraction during their treatment.”