Politicians try out virtual reality therapy

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Politicians have tried out a virtual reality therapy which is being trialled to help people with neurological conditions.

The Sue Ryder charity brought its new treatment to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday for MSPs to experience.

It operates Dee View Court, Scotland’s only specialist residential care facility for people with complex neurological conditions.

New technology being trialled at the centre is being used to help people with conditions such as Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis and acquired brain injuries.

Lewis Macdonald MSP with Recreational Therapist Kirsty Fraser
Lewis Macdonald MSP with recreational therapist Kirsty Fraser (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Lewis Macdonald MSP, who invited the charity to Holyrood, said: “When you see for yourself the kind of innovative things that are happening at Dee View Court, you can see why that would be really beneficial for other people in other places.

“Even in Aberdeen, the success of Dee View Court has been such that they’re doubling the number of rooms because there is such high demand in that one area.

“Multiply that across Scotland and you can see there’s a lot of untapped demand – and what a difference it would make to people with neurological conditions across the country to have access to services of this kind.”

The system was developed by tech company Immersicare.

Users place a headset over their eyes and ears and are virtually transported to a different location, where their body movements adjust what they see.

It can allow residents to find themselves in places they may not be able to visit, such as the beach, jungle or outer space.

Joe FitzPatrick MSP was among the politicians to try out the technology, which saw him transported to a famous location he has previously visited.

Speaking from beneath virtual water level, the Minister for Public Health and Wellbeing said: “It reminds me of being in the Red Sea, which I swam in once.

“There’s just fish everywhere – it’s like you’re actually there.”

He added: “The use of virtual reality technology to help people with neurological conditions is a great example of innovation in health and social care.

“I commend Sue Ryder for this and the wider work they do in supporting people living with these conditions.

“The Scottish Government wants to ensure that people living with neurological conditions have access to the best possible care and support across the country.”

Politicians were given the chance to experience the therapy ahead of the of Scotland’s first ever National Action Plan on Neurological Conditions.

Joe FitzPatrick MSP trying out virtual reality headset
Mr FitzPatrick likened the experience to swimming in the Red Sea (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Sue Ryder’s technology is now being rolled out across its other centres in the UK, due to its success.

Pamela Mackenzie, director of neurological services for the charity, said: “People who have got pain have said they have got reduced pain, people who don’t sleep well – their sleep patterns have improved, people who are sometimes agitated with their condition are much more relaxed after a therapeutic session with the virtual reality.

“It also helps people who have got memory impairment due to their condition as well.

“Some memories are triggered with virtual reality, taking them back to a setting perhaps they have been in when they were younger or before the condition impaired them.

“As we eagerly await the Scottish Government’s National Action Plan on Neurological Conditions, it seems like a good time to share with others the innovative technology we are using with our service users to improve their quality of life.”

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