Hospitals’ appeal to fundraise for state-of-the-art virtual reality kits

THIS year’s Sparkle for Axl appeal is hoping to raise enough money to fund virtual reality games to ease anxiety for young patients in hospital.

On Friday, 13 December, people across Bradford will be donning something sparkly and donating to Axl’s Toy Fund. The fund pays for toys and specialist distraction equipment for wards and departments across Bradford Teaching Hospitals, in a bid to make treatment less scary.

Thanks to the Bradford Hopitals’ Charity appeal, the Children and Young People’s Unit hopes to introduce virtual reality video game sets this year for its young inpatients, as well as funding traditional toys.

With more and more evidence demonstrating how virtual reality can have a positive influence on young patients undergoing treatment, it is hoped the move will provide a welcome distraction and help relax youngsters feeling stressed.

Hayley Collis, Head of Fundraising for Bradford Hospitals’ Charity, said: “Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is already at the forefront of technology, creating several NHS and European firsts thanks to its pioneering use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital tools.

“From our brand new Command Centre, which uses AI, to the da Vinci robot, which is used to treat prostate cancer patients, we are learning about new technologies all the time and how they can improve treatment, care and outcomes.

Diagnosis and treatment

“In our own Radiology Department, we have seen how the Relax and View video kit funded by our charity has reduced the number of patients in need of sedation when undergoing MRI scans. This speeds up diagnosis and treatment.”

Colorado Children’s Hospital in the US has pioneered the use of virtual reality for young patients, not only to reduce anxiety and as distraction when carrying out tests, but also as a part of therapy. The benefits of VR were shown when US charity Child’s Play visited the Trust this year to explain how it can be used to calm patients down and distract during tests.

Hayley added: “We are excited to be in a position where we can dip our toe into this new virtual reality world and fund these starter kits.

“They will help make hospital stays much less stressful and be a wonderful source of entertainment for children at a time when they may be scared or uncomfortable. Anything our charity can do to make hospital stays that much easier is a positive.”

It is well known that play is crucial for healthy child development, as well as helping children develop coping strategies, managing emotions and problem solving. It can also help young hospital patients feel connected to everyday activities and distract from hospital routines.

Matron Ruth Tolley, from Children’s Inpatient Services, praised the role of specialist play staff who are instrumental in ensuring young patients are put at ease and achieve some kind of normality when in hospital.


She said: “Play staff are an integral part of the children’s team. Our hospital play staff undertake additional training in order to support children of all abilities in hospital and they are key to providing distraction during painful procedures, sometimes to the point where they don’t need medication or only very mild forms of pain relief.

“Through play, they are able to educate children and their families on all manner of procedures and can prevent the cancellation of operations of anxious children through preparation.

“Play is an important part of a child’s treatment in hospital and ensures that children who have to be in hospital for long periods of time are provided with age-appropriate stimulation to help encourage skills such as talking and cognitive skills. It helps provide normality for children in a strange environment.”

Bradford Hospitals’ Charity’s Sparkle for Axl day is held in memory of Axl Walker, who sadly died last year following a bone marrow transplant. His mum, Claire Walker, of Wibsey, said she saw first-hand how video games had helped her older son, Lucas, relax when he was in hospital undergoing tests to find out if he was a bone marrow match for Axl.

She said: “It’s essential that children are calm for doctors and nurses to treat them. It means treatment can be carried out quicker and results come back sooner.

“When Lucas was in hospital he loved playing video games and it calmed him down so much at a time when he was feeling stressed.”

For more information about the Sparkle for Axl campaign, please visit, where you can also register your interest in taking part. To make a donation to the appeal, visit

Please make sure you tag Bradford Hospitals’ Charity in any social media posts (Twitter @BTHFTcharity), using the hashtag #Sparkle4Axl.

To find out more about Bradford Hospitals’ Charity and how you can support your local hospitals, visit Alternatively, contact Hayley Collis or Elaine Drake on 01274 274809 or email



Note to editors

 About Bradford Hospitals’ Charity

  • Bradford Hospitals’ Charity is one of more than 250 NHS charities in the UK. It supports the strategic direction of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust by funding projects which go over and above what he NHS provides.
  • Did you know that, together, all NHS charities give £1million every single day to the NHS!
  • In 2017, a new £28million wing opened at Bradford Royal Infirmary, which was part of a £75m investment to improve patient care across our hospitals. It provides world-class facilities for the elderly, children and a brand new intensive care unit. Bradford Hospitals’ Charity provided £260,000 to enable the Trust to create family friendly environments, state-of-the-art equipment and innovative distraction toys and games for young people.
  • With the support of Bradford Hospitals’ Charity, BTHFT was also able to provide more cots, including intensive care and high dependency cots, new family accommodation, a revamped counselling suite and a dedicated room for mothers to express milk for pre-term babies when the new neonatal unit opened in 2015.

For further media information, please contact Kelly Thornham, Communications Officer, at or call 01274 382265

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  1. Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is responsible for providing hospital services for the people of Bradford and communities across Yorkshire. We serve a core population of around 500,000 and provide specialist services for 1.1 million people.

Our 5,500 staff work over several sites, including Bradford Royal Infirmary, which provides the majority of inpatient services, and St Luke’s Hospital, which predominantly provides outpatient and rehabilitation services. We also manage local community hospitals at Westwood Park, Westbourne Green, and Eccleshill.

In early 2017, a new £28 million wing opened at Bradford Royal Infirmary, part of a £75m investment to improve patient care across our hospitals over a five-year period. It provides world-class facilities for elderly care, children’s services, a state-of-the-art intensive care unit with increased single-room provision and a retail concourse.

The new wing is a continuation of our work to improve patient experience after our new £2 million neonatal unit officially opened in January 2015. Our maternity services were recently shortlisted for the Royal College of Midwives’ (RCM) Midwifery Service of the Year Award, recognising excellence and innovation in the provision of maternity care.

In 2017, we also completed a £2m refurbishment of our Emergency Department (ED) as part of an ambitious vision to create a more efficient acute medicine service for the people of Bradford. It has been designed to provide a slicker and more efficient service, with faster senior clinical involvement at an early stage in the patient pathway.

As a teaching hospital, we are at the forefront of education and development in healthcare, and have an excellent reputation for research performance. We are one of the leading centres in conducting applied research in the country, particularly in quality and safety, elderly care and rehabilitation.

The Trust is home to the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) where researchers have led the development, validation and implementation of the award-winning Bradford Electronic Frailty Index (eFI) which helps calculate an elderly person’s risk of disability, impairment, falls and complications of chronic diseases, as well as their diminishing independence and capability. This is now being used by 98 per cent of all GPs across the country.

Our award-winning Ophthalmology department is home to numerous worldwide clinical trials taking the lead in eye care research and we are one of only three sites in the United Kingdom to be enlisted in the Perioperative Enhanced Recovery Hip Fracture Care of Patients with Dementia (PERFECTED) study, which will investigate how the NHS can introduce better standards of care to improve outcomes for people with dementia.

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