A virtual reality training system is being rolled out across Oxford so healthcare professionals can learn how to improve care for people with diabetes.

The technology has been developed so doctors and nurses can recognise when someone has extremely high or low blood glucose levels and can take the necessary action required.

It was developed by Oxford Medical Simulation and funded by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.

The project is being 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.

“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.”

Diabetes is a complex condition and figures suggest around 20% of people in hospital across the UK have either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. However, many healthcare professionals do not know the best treatment pathway should a person develop a diabetes-related complication while under their care.

At least one in 25 with type 1 diabetes develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), another serious diabetes complication, during their hospital stay.

DKA can develop if the body runs short of insulin causing a build-up of ketones in the blood.

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 glucose levels.

“Diabetes emergency situations can escalate quickly and can sometimes be difficult for non-specialist 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.”

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