Distracting sick children with toys and virtual reality headsets during medical procedures could significantly reduce delays on the NHS, a study has found.
Researchers asked more than 100 clinicians whether techniques for distracting children’s attention, with activities such as puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and video games, helped them weather treatments such as blood tests and scans.
The doctors reported completing tasks an average of six minutes faster compared to treating children without distractions, due to the reduction in stress.
The authors of the welfare think tank Pro Bono Economics calculated that this could free up 6,500 additional days of staff time in a year, reducing delays in surgery and other treatment.
Around 1.7 million children in the UK suffer from long-term health problems requiring regular hospital treatment. Each year, more than 1,600 children under 14 are diagnosed with cancer.
Distracting sick children with toys and virtual reality headsets during medical procedures could significantly reduce NHS delays, a study suggests (stock photo)
Researchers asked more than 100 clinicians if techniques for distracting children’s attention, with activities such as puzzles, Rubik’s cubes and video games, helped them weather treatments such as blood tests and scans (stock photo)
Previous studies have shown that simple, essential procedures can be time consuming for young children as they are easily distracted and have difficulty sitting still. A child in need can also extend the length of treatment, resulting in fewer doctors and nurses available elsewhere in the hospital.
Research shows that many children need to be given sedative medicines to calm their nerves.
However, distraction techniques can be used to manage both pain and anxiety in those undergoing medical procedures.
The latest study also found that offering toys significantly reduced the number of children who needed sedatives.
Based on the research, children’s health organization Starlight is calling on the NHS to provide so-called ‘play services’ to all children treated in hospital.
“Children who are hospitalized can become frightened and distressed by even simple medical treatments,” said Dr. Sandra Gulyurtlu, Head of Insights and Impact at Starlight.
“Our research has found that giving children opportunities to play can distract them from procedures and significantly reduce the pain they experience, not to mention the number of tears.”