Vertual's virtual training system cuts radiotherapy training costs

17 March 2009

A virtual environment for radiotherapy training (VERT) produced by Hull-based Vertual is dramatically cutting NHS training costs and helping improve cancer survival rates. The innovative product is now generating worldwide interest thanks to the dedication and determination of a team of NHS and university computer science specialists in Hull.

VERT was developed by Professor Andy Beavis, Professor Roger Phillips and James Ward in a joint development effort between the University of Hull and Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Already their business has sold 51 systems, with a first-year turnover in excess of £3m and the potential of an order of magnitude increase in annual turnover over the next five years.

The fully immersive version of the VERT is in place in the ten accredited radiography teaching universities in England, with further radiography centres looking at the implementation of the technology.

By wearing 3D glasses, VERT allows students to walk around a virtual training room using computer-generated equipment and a hand-held pendant, identical to that of the actual equipment used, to simulate surgery, removing the need for training to be carried out in very expensive radiography treatment suites.

Professor Andy Beavis with the VERT system
Professor Andy Beavis with the VERT system

Professor Beavis, one of the founders of Vertual and an Honorary Professor at the University of Hull said: “Practically every radiotherapy hospital in England has taken up the chance to buy the system. The Department of Health backed the project and recognised its cost savings and efficiency and I’m also proud that we changed national policy on the training of radiographers.”

The system allows accelerated and safer training of clinical professionals, whilst instilling confidence and clinical experience in students.

Professor Beavis continued: “Noreen Sinclair, Principal Lecturer in Radiography at London South Bank University told me that typically it takes students about six months to become proficient in setting a patient up on a couch, but this year, following one week's training and two weeks' experience using VERT they were able to do this. So this is a huge benefit.”

Vertual is now taking VERT international with a sales network spanning North America, Europe and Australasia and has received interest from other countries.

The team attributes part of the success of the project to the encouragement and support from the University of Hull and Hull & East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. Their attitude and drive is resonant of the forward direction Hull is taking in all forms of regeneration including healthcare technologies.

John Holmes, Chief Executive at Hull Forward, the city of Hull’s economic development company (EDC), said: “Hull has a flourishing and extremely innovative healthcare technologies sector, and Vertual is an excellent example of our key strengths in this area. Working alongside world leading companies who have operations in Hull, such as Smith and Nephew, Seven Seas and Reckitt Benckiser, as well as engagement with our SME base, Hull Forward will capitalise on the city's strengths to improve its healthcare provision and provide a driving force for the local economy."

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