A North East Mental Health Trust has been chosen to run a virtual reality study.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust (NTW), the third highest performing mental health Trust in the country for research activity, have been chosen to take part in a ground breaking study for people with psychosis. The study will use immersive virtual reality to treat psychosis, and is part of a £4 million National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) project to make virtual reality treatments available in NHS mental health services.

The project brings together a team of NHS Trusts, universities, a mental health charity, the Royal College of Art and a University of Oxford tech start-up, and the study starts recruiting in June 2019.

Many people with psychosis find social situations difficult and will withdraw from everyday activities as a result leading to isolation and lack of activity which can lead to physical health problems and deterioration in their mental health.

The Virtual Reality (VR) therapy study, led by Professor Daniel Freeman of Oxford University and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, involves wearing a headset and interacting with computer generated people whilst a virtual coach guides the user through their thoughts, feelings and responses in social situations.

The cutting edge Virtual Reality (VR) technology enables people to practise skills in a computer-simulated world to reduce problems in real life.  This innovative approach in turn reduces anxiety and paranoia and improves engagement in everyday activities.

Dr Robert Dudley, who is leading the study on behalf of NTW, said: “This technology will radically improve treatment for psychosis and because the treatment is automated, many more patients will have access to effective psychological treatment.

“The cost of VR therapy is a fraction of that for standard therapies so the potential to cut overall treatment costs by improving health and reducing time spent in hospital is a big incentive”.