Little Linac joins new Science Museum collection

Selina Hurley, Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum, with the Little Linac 

A TOY to help children undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer with their anxiety has been included as an exhibit in a new gallery at the Science Museum.

The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine’s ‘Little Linac’ kit of play bricks is one of the thousands of exhibits in the newly-opened Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries  at the museum in London.

The Little Linac project was started by Professor David Brettle, Head of Medical Physics and Engineering at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, when he was President of IPEM. His vision was for IPEM to provide every child in the UK undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer with a free kit of play bricks to make a model treatment machine (‘linac’, short for linear accelerator).

Toy bricks are every child’s favourite toy and are an ideal way to educate young patients about their treatment in a way that is designed to reduce their stress and anxiety, and so contribute to successful treatment sessions. The aim of the model is to help reduce the child’s anxiety, through play, by allowing them to see and understand what the machine looks like and how it moves around them during their treatment.

IPEM donated 100 Little Linac kits to each of the 16 paediatric radiotherapy centres across the UK and has sold almost 3,000 around the globe, including Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Peru. You can read more about the project here.

Professor Brettle said: ‘I never dreamed that one day my initial idea for the Little Linac would end up seeing it helping so many children, not only here in the UK but right around the world, or that it would form part of such an important collection at the Science Museum.’

Selina Hurley, Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum, said: ‘We are delighted that our visitors can now see the Little Linac in Wellcome: The Medicine Galleries at the Science Museum in London.

‘Undergoing radiotherapy treatment can be daunting for anyone and we wanted to highlight the ways medical staff communicate with young patients and their families. Many visitors have engaged with this surprising display that uses familiar childhood toys to explain a deeply emotional topic. Play has long been used both therapeutically and to explain medical treatments to children and we continue to collect 21st century examples of this such as the Little Linac.’

Professor Stephen O’Connor, IPEM’s President, said: ‘I am delighted for IPEM, and for David Brettle, that the Little Linac has been included in the Science Museum collection.

‘It is such a brilliant way to help children undergoing radiotherapy treatment for cancer to overcome their anxiety.’