Medic raises £1.5m for app to help children prepare for surgery

A doctor who has developed an app to help reduce anxiety in children undergoing surgery has raised £1.5m from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), Mercia’s own funds and private investors.

Dr Chris Evans, an anaesthetist working with children and a father himself, joined forces with product designer Sophie Copley to launch Little Journey. The app enables patients to take virtual tours of the hospital, with interactive animations explaining what will happen and who they will meet at each stage of their hospital journey. It also includes games, relaxation guides and information for parents.

Little Journey has been shown to reduce anxiety by 30% in high-risk patients such as those with autism or ADHD, reduce the number of operations cancelled on the day by 42% and improve recovery times by 30%. It is currently being used in over 50 hospitals worldwide. The Leeds-based company recently won a contract with one of the world’s largest clinical research organisations, which is planning on using Little Journey to support participants in a complex, international paediatric clinical trial.

The funding will help the business expand its team with the creation of 12 new jobs, further develop its technology and drive uptake in the UK and overseas. As part of the investment, the company has appointed Dr Nicolaus Henke, Senior Partner Emeritus of McKinsey and Company and former leader of McKinsey’s Global Healthcare Practice, as Chair.

Dr Chris Evans, the company’s CEO, said: “As a doctor, I have witnessed first-hand the anxiety and distress experienced by children and their families before, during and after healthcare procedures. Many have to be sedated before a general anaesthetic, even though this tends to delay their recovery. It occurred to me that by using a fun video game format, we could engage these patients, help them prepare for their hospital visit and calm their fears.

“The investment will help us to further enhance the platform to improve patient experience, create more personalised solutions and expand our team to support our internationalisation and rapid growth.”

Rob Bennett, Investment Associate at Mercia, added: “Little Journey has already had a major impact on mental and physical health outcomes for thousands of children and parents. Chris and Sophie have made great progress in commercialising the product to date. This investment will support them in their aim of transforming the experiences of young patients and their families on a global scale.”

Sean Hutchinson of British Business Bank, said: “The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund was set up to support ambitious companies in the North, providing access to finance and allowing them to seize opportunities for growth. Thanks to investment, Little Journey will be able to offer its innovative app to even more children and hospitals, alongside developing it further. It will also lead to the creation of jobs and allow the company to grow internationally.”

Jonathan Pollard and Olivia Brown of Ward Hadaway provided legal advice to Mercia on the investment while the company was advised by Mark Rundall and Greg Turton of Bird & Bird.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.