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Every year there are nearly 10,000 new cases of leukaemia in the UK, and many of these individuals will spend long periods of isolation in hospital as they undergo treatment - some will find themselves in hospital for up to two months at a time, on multiple occasions, during their treatment regimens. 

Disconnected from family, colleagues and society at large, patients often feel afraid, alone and bored (known, medically, as ‘deconditioning’). This, at an already stressful and traumatic time in their lives. When we spoke directly to patients at the Wessex Ward, Basingstoke Hospital they told us that the hardest thing about their treatment was the psychological impact of being in their “white box” for such prolonged periods. While medical staff and resources are almost entirely consumed with the urgent need to restore patients to physical wellness, these mental health challenges are often, by necessity, neglected. 

At Fred, we believe that by combining technology, behavioural science and active community engagement, we can play our part. In partnership with NHS staff – and patients themselves – we sought to discover a low-cost, scalable intervention to minimise the negative impact of deconditioning. We tested simple virtual reality (VR) experiences to determine the potential for a more structured programme. 

Patients were hugely receptive and expressed interest in being further connected to ‘real life’ scenarios through VR. Medical staff were also excited by the responses of patients and the possibilities presented by the technology, when combined with established therapeutic practices. 

Together we have adopted an agile, rapid testing, approach, with a view to developing a minimum viable product for Leukaemia patients, with the potential for replicability in other similar scenarios.