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A Health Innovation Challenge Fund project was awarded second place for patient and public involvement at the recent Bright Ideas in Health Awards.

Over 450 healthcare professionals gathered to recognise the innovative ideas being developed by NHS staff and healthcare small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the North East and North Cumbria. The winners in five categories received a cash prize to help progress their ideas as well as ongoing specialist support.

The ‘Patient and Public Involvement Category – Making Research Better’ was sponsored by the NIHR Local Clinical Research Network: North East and North Cumbria and Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria. The second place to Dr Kathleen Vancleef from Newcastle University recognised public involvement in the development of a test for amblyopia and strabismus , also known as the ASTEROID project (Accurate STEReotest On a mobile Device). The principal investigator for ASTEROID is Dr Jenny Read.

The ASTEROID project is funded through the Health Innovation Challenge Fund (HIC Fund) – a joint partnership funding initiative between the Department of Health (DH) and the Wellcome Trust.

Given that the ASTEROID project is still in its early stages this is an encouraging achievement.

About the ASTEROID project

Stereo vision, often called 3D vision, is the ability to use both eyes together to see depth. Clinicians use specialised vision tests, called stereotests, to measure childrens’ 3D vision in disorders like squint.

Existing stereotests are not engaging for children and they may not understand the test or be willing to cooperate, for example by wearing 3D glasses. This means that the results are not always reliable and as such can prove to be problematic for clinicians who monitor progress, assess whether treatment is helping, and make clinical decisions such as when to operate.

Dr Read and her research team are developing glasses-free 3D tablet computers to produce a fun and colourful stereotest, in the form of a game, for children.

The device will be customised for each individual and will automatically adjust for any changes in viewing distance. As a result, the device will provide clinicians with more accurate data. This will help healthcare professionals to track the progress of treatment and make the best decisions.


Patient and public involvement so far

1) Involvement of children

By involving children the team are ensuring they are developing an engaging, attractive and fun to play game. Three game themes have been selected based on the votes of 50 children at a ‘Meet the Scientist’ event at Centre for Life. Instructions of the game were adapted following feedback from children playing the game at Great North Hancock Museum. During a workshop at Seven Stories, children put forward ideas about potential improvements for the stimuli, narrative and feedback. By delivering 30 workshops in local schools, the team have also established contacts to recruit children for to trial the new stereotest.


2) Involvement of parents and Orthoptists

Posters and flyers were distributed in schools, nurseries, soft play centres and NHS organisations, for the attention of parents, in order to recruit children into the study. Parents and orthoptists have advised the research team on topics such as user interface, duration of the game, designs, how to involve children, and how to increase impact. Updates of the project have been presented at the Orthoptists’ Staff Meetings at the Newcastle Eye Centre. Feedback on the current version of the test was gathered in informal conversations and through questionnaires. Presenting the project at a Staff Meeting at Sunderland Eye Infirmary and at the Spring Meeting of the Northern Branch British and Irish Orthoptic Society has additionally increased the teams understanding of the orthoptists’ needs and has raised awareness about the project. More specifically, it has influenced the team in reducing the length of the test, improving instructions, how to rewards the children, required input and output of the test, and will guide the teams decisions in including more themes, audio, animations, encouragement from the children, and navigation options.

3) Other consultations

Consultation of the Young People Advisory Group in Great North Children's Hospital informed the team about engaging activities and how to involve young children. The team also consulted with PPI experts at Newcastle University and made use of various specialist PPI websites such as INVOLVE’s (

Patient and public involvement – future plans

To advise on recruitment, leaflets, information sheets and so on, the team are setting up a panel consisting of parents of children with amblyopia or strabismus. In the final stage of the project, they plan to record the views of orthoptists, parents and children about the ASTEROID game and develop a video. During panel meetings, on Facebook (Asteroid-Newcastle University) and on Twitter (@AsteroidNcl) the public will be able to comment on recent developments. In addition, they have recruited PPI representatives to take an active role in research steering group meetings twice a year.