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17th March 2024

“If staff are happy, patients are happy!” – Virtual reality therapy helps NHS staff to maintain emotional wellness

Researchers at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board are exploring whether virtual reality (VR) therapy could be beneficial in helping staff improve and maintain their emotional wellbeing.

Staff can access VR headsets on request and are guided to practise different mindfulness programmes. Preliminary results from 24 participants demonstrated significant decreases in post-intervention scores for insomnia, depression, anxiety and stress.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board was the first health board in Wales to offer virtual reality technology for their staff during the pandemic.

Now Dr Clare Wright, Strategic Lead for Wellbeing and Employee Experience, and her team are working on a research study to find out the effectiveness of mindfulness and relaxation interventions via VR in improving depression, anxiety, stress, sleep and professional quality of life.

Dr Wright said they saw staff were under enormous stress especially during the pandemic and lockdown.

She said: “When the pandemic hit, many of our staff were on their knees, with very poor emotional well-being.  Cwm Taf Morgannwg covers one of the most socially deprived areas in Wales, we knew that COVID was going to be very challenging to our staff, and we needed to do something preventative.

“Staff are given the VR headsets and they can follow the relaxation and mindfulness activities on the headset at home for eight weeks.

“They would have a moment to escape to a completely different reality – a beach or under the sea, which helped them to unwind and relax after a challenging day.

Speaking at the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Research and Development Conference, the study team said: “Our staff found that VR was a really good way to relax and they reported reduced anxiety and improved sleep.

“Research shows that when staff are well, patients have better outcomes. We do everything we can to support staff and to help them stay well because it’s the right thing to do.”