Experts share surgical expertise in first of its kind virtual reality training

Thursday 10th September 2020

Experts share surgical expertise in first of its kind virtual reality training

Surgeons from Queen Victoria Hospital are taking training to the next level with a first of its kind free virtual reality experience. Inspired by the increased use of technology and remote learning since the start of the pandemic and the difficulty of delivering face to face training, they are creating a unique learning experience for trainees in the UK and worldwide. The virtual reality experience makes you feel like you are right there in the operating theatre, without being anywhere near the hospital in East Grinstead.

The specialist surgical hospital has a national and international reputation for excellence. Training opportunities its team are able to offer are in high demand. This virtual reality approach, using cameras that can film in 360 degrees, is running from 14-18 September will combine a mix of pre-recorded and live feed video with a more conventional webinars, enabling trainees access to a variety of procedures across the hospital’s specialisms they may not usually see. The 360 cameras will be used to film surgical techniques including patient examination, instrument set up and surgical procedures on cadavers at the Brighton Medical School anatomy department.

The idea was devised by Jag Dhanda, consultant maxillofacial and head & neck reconstructive surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital, working with other QVH colleagues. The hospital had run a cadaveric course for the last three years, one of the only hands-on courses of its kind worldwide, but the realisation that COVID-19 would prevent the course from going ahead in 2020 required some thinking outside the box if such training was to continue.

Jag explains “Hands on learning is massively important for our trainees. Whilst webinars are helpful, they are predominantly one dimensional with no or limited interaction with speakers and I wanted to create something more immersive and interactive. Having played around with virtual reality cameras I realised it had potential which is not currently being tapped into fully for medical training, certainly not free medical and surgical training. With the support and expertise of my colleagues we formed the Virtual Reality in Medicine and Surgery (VRiMS) group. The immersive experiences we are creating will be used for clinical demonstrations of medical and surgical techniques and simulation training for trainees anywhere.”

So far over 500 UK-based medical, surgical and dental trainees have signed up, with trainees including those in Australia, Jamaica, the USA, India, Brazil, Libya, Egypt and Europe also wanting to get involved. All they need is a mobile phone, Wi-Fi signal and a VR headset. “We have managed to obtain free headsets for nearly 300 UK trainees for this course”, Jag explains.

Topics to be covered across the five days are oral and maxillofacial/head and neck surgery; oral and maxillofacial surgery and plastic surgery; ENT/head and neck surgery; hand surgery; orthopaedics, breast and vascular surgery; anaesthetics, emergency medicine and helicopter emergency management service (HEMS).

Keith Altman, medical director at Queen Victoria Hospital, said: “Using virtual reality technology for medical training is a really exciting prospect and I am delighted that colleagues representing so many of our specialisms are able to get involved in this training event. Despite COVID-19 it is important that as a training hospital we continue to be able to provide educational learning experiences to help train and develop the specialists of the future.”

Pictured Surgeons at Queen Victoria Hospital share their expertise with trainees through virtual reality event

For more information please contact the Queen Victoria Hospital Press Office at

Photo: Kate Murrell Photography