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New app promises to “transform” mandatory fire safety training in NHS

18 December 2023

TRANSFORMING MANDATORY fire safety training for staff working in the National Health Service (NHS) is the objective underpinning the launch of a new app, which shows users how to fight fire on hospital wards and healthcare settings through a range of scenarios, including the sequencing of evacuation, the selection of extinguishers and which door to open.

These simulated scenarios feature interactive 360-degree video and virtual reality (6 Degrees of Freedom), affording users the ability to physically move and pick up objects in what is a digitally created 3D space.

The app has been designed and created by Professor Jag Dhanda (Honorary Professor of Surgery at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and Visiting Professor of Extended Reality in Medicine and Surgery at the Kingston Business School, which is part of London’s Kingston University), Dr Jonathan Fenn (education fellow in XR at Brighton and Sussex Medical School), Paul O’Donnell (fire safety officer at the Queen Victoria Hospital) and virtual reality developer Cineon VR.

In fact, the app is part of the Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery project led by Professor Dhanda, which itself specialises in creating extended reality resources through virtual and augmented reality. Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery is a research group that evaluates this technology and explore its usage in global health and surgical training.

The project has received funding from Health Education England (now NHS England) to develop the training app, which is the first of its kind to tackle fire safety training through XR. The scenarios in the app are informed by the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, which is now helping to roll-out the app to more than one million NHS colleagues in the UK.

The virtual reality app was created using a digital twin of a ward within the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.

Profound role

Commenting on the app, Professor Dhanda informed Fire Safety Mattrs: “Extended reality will have a profound role to play in training the next generation of healthcare workers. Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery believes it will help to deliver the NHS workforce plan. We are also convinced of its huge role in global health. This project opens the door to virtual reality for the 1.3 million NHS workers who require fire safety training every year.”

Rosie Courtney, programme lead for simulation-based education and technology enhanced learning and patient safety across the South East at NHS England, added: “NHS England is delighted to support the innovative approaches of developing extended reality to enhance the education and training of our multi-professional workforce in what is a truly system-wide, multi-agency and collaborative way.”

The West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, which has helped to bring this fire safety project to life, explained: “Through an exhilarating partnership with the NHS, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has ushered in a new era of fire safety training, using immersive virtual reality experiences to enhance hospital fire safety for NHS staff.”

Extended and virtual reality training is quickly becoming a popular tool for organisations to use when training employees on fire safety procedures. Virtual reality headsets provide users with a realistic, 360-degree view of a virtual world wherein various fire hazards can be present. This allows large groups of individuals to be trained in parallel.

The next step will be a series of pilot studies at Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the Queen Victoria Hospital with a view towards making this training mandatory for all NHS staff.

*Further information is available online at https://www.vrims.net/