An approach to mandatory fire safety training in the NHS with the launch of a cutting-edge app with virtual reality scenarios designed to teach healthcare professionals essential skills, from extinguisher selection to evacuation sequences.

A pioneering fire safety app has been introduced to elevate mandatory training for NHS staff by incorporating extended reality (XR) technologies. Developed by Professor Jag Dhanda, Honorary Professor of Surgery at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), along with Dr Jonathan Fenn, BSMS education fellow in XR, and Paul O’Donnell, the Fire Safety Officer at Queen Victoria Hospital, the app utilises interactive 360 video and Virtual Reality (6 degrees of Freedom).

The app focuses on instructing users on how to effectively combat fires within hospital wards and healthcare settings, offering diverse scenarios covering evacuation procedures, extinguisher selection, and crucial decisions like which doors to open. The incorporation of VR headsets provides users with an immersive, 360-degree view of a digitally created world, allowing large groups to undergo training simultaneously, eliminating associated injury risks.

Part of the Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery (VRiMS) project, led by Prof Dhanda, the app stands out as the first of its kind to address fire safety training through XR. The project received funding from Health Education England (now NHS England) and collaborated with West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service to develop scenarios informed by real-life situations.

Professor Dhanda expressed his optimism, stating, "Extended reality will have a profound role to play in training the next generation of healthcare workers. This project opens the door to virtual reality for the 1.3 million NHS workers who require fire safety mandatory training every year." The app is a significant stride towards fulfilling the NHS workforce plan and is expected to contribute to global health and surgical training.

Rosie Courtney, Programme Lead at NHS England, commended the innovative approach, stating, "NHS England is delighted to support the development of extended reality to enhance the education and training of our multi-professional workforce in a collaborative way."

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