On 1st February Professor Daniel Freeman (Psychiatry) and Professor David M Clark (Experimental Psychiatry) were presented with NIHR’s i4i (Invention for Innovation Award) Mental Health Challenge Award by Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy. The record award (£3.9m) was received on behalf of a large multidisciplinary team led by Professor Freeman that will build on their early experimental demonstration (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/early/2016/04/07/bjp.bp.115.176438) that encountering feared situations in a virtual environment can substantially reduce the fears of people with paranoid psychosis and help them re-engage in everyday life.
In the new work, the team will refine the virtual reality treatment to ensure it is appealing and easy to use. They will then test it in a large scale randomised controlled trial. If that trial confirms the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the treatment, the final phase of the work will involve careful implementation within the NHS. To achieve these goals, researchers from 5 different universities and mental health trusts are working closely together with a design team from the Royal College of Art, with an Oxford spinout company (Nowican) and with service users led by the McPin Foundation. For more details of the work, see Daniel Freeman’s recent blog: https://www.nihr.ac.uk/blogs/virtual-benefits-for-the-real-world/7844