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University team to work with Welsh Ambulance Service to research VR training for Paramedics

A project aiming to provide vital Paramedic training through Virtual Reality (VR) has won ‘The Welsh Health Gadget Hack’.

The collaboration between the University of Chester and the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, formed during the Hack event, now aims to provide the VR training with an anytime-anywhere immersive experience for trainee Paramedics to practice their skills. The technology will enable Paramedics to both ‘see' a patient in situ (at the accident scene or in the back of an ambulance) and ‘feel’ the sensation of needle insertions.

The team, called ‘ParaVR’, attended the Hack event in Wrexham recently which was organised by the Bevan Commission, AgorIP and MediWales.

Over 50 health and care professionals from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Powys Teaching Health Board and Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust attended the event, armed with problems they face in their day-to-day work. They then heard from academics and industry partners who could provide the technological expertise they needed to make their solutions a reality.

ParaVR made their pitch to the judges in a 'Dragon’s Den' style event where they were also able to show a VR demo of the concept. At the end of the pitches, Para VR was named as their top challenger with the judges noting the clear need for this new technology and the value of NHS-University collaboration.

Professor Nigel John leads the University of Chester’s Medical Graphics Team, who are based at Thornton Science Park, together with, Research Assistant, Tom Day and Senior Lecturer, Dr Neil Vaughan who represented the University of Chester at the event.

Professor John said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won. During the networking part of the Hack, we made contact with Nigel Rees, Head of Research and Innovation at the Welsh Ambulance Service. Together with Nigel, the project idea evolved to develop skills maintenance tools for paramedics using affordable off-the-shelf VR equipment."

"In particular, we will address those life-saving procedures that are only needed to be carried out rarely such as needle cricothyroidotomy, which is an incision made through the skin and cricothyroid membrane to establish an airway during certain life-threatening situations."

"The 'Dragons' decided that our idea was the best on the day, recognising a clear need for the product. We are very grateful to the Bevan Commission, which is investing £7,500 into our project idea for further development.”

Nigel Rees, Head of Research and Innovation at the Wales Ambulance Service, added: “It was great to take part in the hack and even better to be involved in the winning pitch. There is huge potential in Virtual Reality as a means of training paramedics. It is already used in the training of Surgeons and Pilots. Using established technology to make our Paramedic training not only state of the art, but easily accessible, is something I feel passionate about."

“I’m very much looking forward to working with the team at the University of Chester to make our hack idea a reality.”

26 Oct 2018 15:04

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