The technology, developed by Oxford Medical Simulation, is being trialled by nurses and doctors at Queen Alexandra Hospital to learn how to manage medical emergencies in a digital environment via a headset.
It helps them work through and recognise potentially life-threatening situations such as seeing patients with extremely high or low blood sugar levels and scores the actions they take to support learning.
The project, funded by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, is led by Dr Partha Kar from Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, with the help of clinicians including Dr Mayank Patel, a consultant diabetologist at University Hospital Southampton.
Dr Patel said: ‘Ensuring clinicians are trained effectively to spot potential and manage confirmed diabetes in emergency situations promptly is vital and this immersive digital environment is an innovative way to do that.
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‘So far we have trialled the system with 10 doctors and the feedback has been really positive, with all of them feeling much more confident about recognising the signs and taking appropriate action.’
Around 20 per cent of all inpatients at any one time in a UK hospital have diabetes. Currently, at least one in 25 with type 1 diabetes nationally develop a dangerous condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) during their hospital stay.
DKA can develop if the body starts to run short of insulin causing a build up of harmful substances in the blood known as ketones.
Dr Patel added: ‘Patients with type 1 diabetes in particular are at higher risk of developing serious glucose-related problems when in hospital due to extreme highs and lows in their blood sugar levels,.
‘Diabetes emergency situations can escalate quickly and can sometimes be difficult for non-specialists doctors and nurses to recognise, so it is hoped that increased education and training around diabetes in hospital can markedly improve the current statistics.’
Dr Kar, who is also NHS England’s associate national clinical director for diabetes, added: ‘Embracing technology is at the heart of the NHS long term plan and training doctors using virtual reality is another example of modernising the NHS to help improve care for patients with diabetes.’