Lung patients in North Lincolnshire are set to be the first in the UK to benefit from a pioneering virtual reality (VR) pulmonary rehabilitation programme – offered for the first time on the NHS.
NHS North Lincolnshire CCG successfully submitted a bid to NHS England to fund the programme for people in North Lincolnshire living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) in late 2019.
From February 4, 2020, GP practices in North Lincolnshire will be able to offer COPD patients a kit consisting of a virtual reality headset, wearable sensor and mobile data hotspot so that they can partake in pulmonary rehab exercises, led by a digital instructor, from the comfort of their own home.
The immersive app places the wearer in a sun-kissed beachside training routine environment. Historically, pulmonary rehabilitation classes have typically been delivered in hospital outpatient departments by a physiotherapist.
This additional service, delivered across the three Primary Care Networks in North Lincolnshire, will provide an additional 501 pulmonary rehabilitation places a year.
Patients who choose this option can benefit from faster access to rehabilitation and are able to start treatment within one week of their referral.
Concept Health Technologies, a company specialising in medical virtual reality and artificial intelligence, developed the solution led by Dr Farhan Amin in 2017. This is the first time the initiative has been rolled-out at scale.
Evaluation from the pilot scheme showed that patient retention rates improved by up to 80 per cent – boosting patients’ independence and reducing the need for hospital visits.
Dr Satpal Shekhawat, Medical Director at NHS North Lincolnshire CCG said: “I am confident that this will significantly improve quality of life for our COPD patients.
“Many parts of North Lincolnshire are rural and some are not well-served by public transport, so this programme will really help those who might otherwise struggle to attend a rehabilitation appointment in person.
“This is an additional service which will add significant capacity to deliver pulmonary rehabilitation for North Lincolnshire residents. We anticipate this will reduce waiting times and ultimately reduce the number of hospital admissions for people living with COPD.
“I am proud that we are truly bringing healthcare to our patients’ doorsteps.”
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