A virtual reality (VR) treatment has received a positive Early Value Assessment from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), having been first piloted in Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH).
The Early Value Assessment (EVA) is an approach by NICE to ensure the rapid assessment of digital technologies that are most needed and in demand so that the NHS and service users can benefit from them sooner. This includes a recommendation for use in NHS settings while evidence is generated and is a recognition of virtual reality’s importance in mental health therapy at a national level.
The gameChange VR therapy is for people living with psychosis whose fears have caused them to become largely housebound. Everyday tasks – such as getting on a bus, going shopping, speaking to other people – are a challenge.
The automated VR therapy programme allows a person to practise, at their own pace, being in virtual simulations of everyday situations. The therapy is provided in around six 30-minute sessions. A trained gameChange staff member is always present for support and advice.
GMMH is proud to have been one of the NHS Trusts involved in the largest ever clinical trial of VR technology in mental health, led by Oxford University Chair Professor Daniel Freeman. The results of this research demonstrated that gameChange led to reductions in anxiety and distress in everyday situations compared with usual care alone.
Following this clinical trial, a real-world pilot project is being delivered at GMMH to evaluate whether it is possible to implement gameChange within NHS clinical settings. Early Intervention in psychosis and community mental health teams (CMHTs) across the Trust are involved in this pilot study, with support from a service user researcher and clinical psychologist for training and mentoring during the study.
John Sainsbury, Innovation Manager at GMMH, said:
“We are delighted with the positive outcome of NICE’s Early Value Assessment and that GMMH is the first Trust in the world to have implemented gameChange VR, for people with psychosis suffering with agoraphobia, outside of a research environment, to the benefit of services users and staff involved.”
“The knowledge and skills gained from GMMH’s involvement in the study has been invaluable in supporting the translation of gameChange VR therapy into the real-world setting. Our peer support workers, assistant psychologists, STR workers and Wellbeing Practitioners have been educating staff on the theory of exposure therapy, role playing the use of VR headsets and gC environments, supporting services user to think about how to apply what they have experienced in VR, and how they faced their fears in the comfort of their own home, to the world beyond their front door.
“Many service users have reported benefits and changes in their levels of agoraphobia as a result of using gameChange. Some have experienced life changing boosts in confidence and changes in their underlying beliefs which cause agoraphobia, as well as a change in the avoidant behaviour which may have been maintaining their housebound situation.
“There are enablers and challenges to the implementation of gameChange, but we are looking forward to continuing our pilot study and reporting on this in 2024.”
The gameChange research study was funded by a multimillion-pound award from the UK Department of Health: the inaugural National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) i4i (Invention for Innovation) Mental Health Challenge Award. It was also supported by the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.
You can read more GMMH’s work with gameChange here: gameChange | Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS FT (gmmh.nhs.uk).
To find out more about gameChange, visit their website: gameChange – We improve lives through VR therapy (gamechangevr.com).
You can view the guidance from NICE here: Overview | Virtual reality technologies for treating agoraphobia or agoraphobic avoidance: early value assessment | Guidance | NICE.