‘Spot of Vicar of Dibley with your knee op, sir?’

tis  Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Jon Conroy with the video goggles.  (140227M3)
tis Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Mr Jon Conroy with the video goggles. (140227M3)

Surgeons in Harrogate are bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘theatre’ with patients being offered video goggles to entertain them through operations.

Hospital patients undergoing minor surgery are being offered the goggles, which come ready loaded with a choice of films and TV shows, as a distraction technique.

And despite a variety of shows on offer from the news to Coronation Street, it seems Harrogate patients prefer to keep it simple.

“We did a survey of patients in Harrogate,” said Jon Conroy, the consultant orthopaedic surgeon who is running the trial.

“The majority said they wanted to watch The Vicar of Dibley. It was closely followed by the news, then Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

“We’ve had Only Fools and Horses - people loved that one. Even Mamma Mia was a hit.

“They can watch the news, sports on live TV. The World Cup, even the Tour de France. There are endless options.”

More than 20 people have already tried the goggles, and a formal research project is to start soon to measure how good they are at distracting nervous patients.

“We are doing more and more surgery with ‘blocks’ rather than full general anaesthetic,” said Mr Conroy, who is also clinical director for elective care at Harrogate District Hospital.

“Sedation can make people nauseous, drowsy. With a block people stay crystal clear, they can have something to eat, talk to relatives.

“But a lot of patients don’t want to see what’s happening - they can be very nervous.

“We try and reassure them, talk to them. This is an additional way of distracting them to make them less worried before surgery.”

The idea came after a visit to the dentist for Mr Conroy.

“I first saw them when I went to the dentist - Henry Donaldson at the Swan Practice had them,” he said. “I thought it was a great idea.”

In the two years since he has established the research project, which has paid for the goggles at between £400 and £500, and will soon start assessing patient feedback.

The optional study will measure pain scores, analgesic usage, and stress measures for patients undergoing surgery such as knee and hip replacements, hand or hernia operations.

“At first we thought it was a novel idea,” said Mr Conroy. “Then, once we started getting good feedback, we started to see how it works with distracting patients and making them much more relaxed. They are a really useful tool for patients who are nervous. And if it works, we can do more.”