King’s College Hospital NHS to trial virtual reality for diversity training


Mental health staff at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Health Education England are amongst those who are taking part in a virtual reality (VR) pilot that uses the technology for diversity and inclusion training.

The VR technology comes from researchers at London-based Maudsley Learning and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, partnering with Bristol-based immersive education company Virti.

Staff will be able to use VR headsets or mobile devices to practice skills including empathy, inclusion and interpersonal awareness. Educators will then use the information to give the staff feedback.

“I think that the scenarios are very emotive. Using the VR headset, and accessing the Virti platform, it really felt as though you were in the room and you could feel the emotion from the characters,” said Dr Claire Tiley, medical education fellow, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

It’s not the first time that the NHS has used VR technology. In 2020, it worked with Oxford VR to provide virtual reality treatment for those suffering from social anxiety.

“As a bystander in the scenario it’s almost as if the characters are asking for your help or for you to defend them,’ added Tiley.

The project comes as part of recent research on tackling ongoing and systemic inequalities in healthcare.

Virti, founded in 2017 by NHS surgeon Alex Young, provides VR, augmented reality and mixed reality educational content for healthcare.

James Pathan, head of operations, Maudsley Learning said: “A major advantage is the scalability of the technology, and the potential to reach more of the workforce with lower cost, experiential training.

“Having this training placed on wards allows staff to access learning at their own convenience.”

Fellow VR employee training platform Moonhub, which is used by takeaway company Just Eat, raised £2m in April.

Following Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, UK-based VR companies have received a record £154m in funding.