New app launches to transform fire mandatory safety training in the NHS 

An innovative new fire safety app has launched with the aim of transforming fire safety mandatory training for NHS staff through extended reality (XR).

The app shows users how to fight fire on hospital wards and healthcare settings through a range of scenarios, including sequencing of evacuation, selection of extinguishers and which door to open. These simulated scenarios use interactive 360 video and Virtual Reality (6 degrees of Freedom), the ability to physically move and pick up objects in a digitally created, three-dimensional space.

The app was designed and created by Professor Jag Dhanda, Honorary Professor of Surgery at Brighton, and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and Visiting Professor of Extended Reality in Medicine and Surgery (Kingston Business School, Kingston University, London), Dr Jonathan Fenn, BSMS education fellow in XR, Paul O’Donnell, the Fire Safety Officer, at Queen Victoria Hospital and Cineon VR developers. The app is part of the Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery (VRiMS) project led by Prof Dhanda, which specialises in creating extended reality resources through virtual and augmented reality. VRiMS is a research group that evaluates this technology and explore its utilisation in global health and surgical training. The project 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 were informed by West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, who are now helping to rollout 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 on Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

Commenting on the app, Prof Dhanda said: “Extended reality will have a profound role to play in training the next generation of healthcare workers, and VRiMS believes it will help to deliver the NHS workforce plan. We are also convinced of its huge role in global health and the VRiMS research group evaluates it benefits in healthcare training. This project opens the door to virtual reality for the 1.3 million NHS workers who require fire safety mandatory training every year.”

Rosie Courtney, Programme Lead, Simulation Based Education & Technology Enhanced Learning and Patient Safety, South East, NHS England, added: “NHS England are delighted to support the innovative approaches of developing extended reality to enhance the education and training of our multi-professional workforce, in a truly system-wide, multi-agency and collaborative way.”

West Sussex Fire Crew at East Grinstead, which came together with VRiMS to help bring this fire safety project to life, said: “Through an exhilarating partnership with the NHS, West Sussex fire and rescue service has ushered in a new era of fire safety training, utilising immersive virtual reality experiences to enhance hospital fire safety for the community and staff.”

Extended and virtual reality training is quickly becoming a popular tool for organisations to use when training employees on fire safety procedures. VR headsets provide users with a realistic, 360-degree view of a virtual world where various fire hazards can be present. This allows large groups of people to be trained at once without any risks associated with injuries.

The next step in rolling out the fire safety app will be a series of pilot studies at BSMS and Queen Victoria Hospital, on which the scenarios were based, with a view to making this mandatory training for all NHS staff.

Read more on VRiMS here: https://www.vrims.net/

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About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan