The dedicated team of play specialists at Epsom Hospital and Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children pulled out all the stops to put on a week of fun, games and special surprises in celebration of National Play in Hospital Week.
Organised by the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS), Play in Hospital Week is an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of play and activity in caring for children and young people. Lorna Bramwells, Head of Nursing for Paediatrics, explained: “This year, Play in Hospital Week was given the theme of ‘play matters’, something that we were really keen to get behind as we know that play can make a real difference to the children and young people we look after.
“Our play specialists work with children of all ages, from babies right up to young adults of 16, and focus on providing reassurance and distraction (through play and other activities) to help patients and families feel less anxious and to make their experience of being in hospital as positive as possible. Through play we are able to engage with the children in a different way, helping to make their time in hospital feel less daunting and support them through the different procedures and treatments they might need.”
The play specialist team at Queen Mary’s had an action-packed week that featured a range of arts and crafts activities, plus plenty of special guests who helped put a smile on everyone’s faces. Play Specialist Sara Smith, who led the way with events on the Children’s Ward, said: “We really wanted to go all-out this year, and I think we did just that! We had several events happening each day, which allowed us to make sure there was something for everyone to get involved in.
“We also had a performance from Captain Starlight – a team of performers from the Starlight Children’s Foundation who use comedy, acting, art and music to capture children’s imaginations and help them through their treatment. However, I think the highlight for many was the visit from some Stormtroopers from the UK Garrison, one of the foremost Star Wars costuming groups in the UK. They visited most departments and certainly caught everyone’s attention – we’ve already booked their next visit!”
Over at Epsom Hospital, it was a similar story, where play specialists Jo Dodge and Renata Wingrove kicked off the week with an interactive information stand to help raise awareness of the importance of play. Jo said: “The week got off to a busy start with lots of people interested in finding out more about why play matters and how we can help.
“After that, we had a performance of The Wizard of Oz from the company Magical Quests, polka dot parties (complete with a visit from Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen), and daily arts and crafts activities. Arts and crafts is always fun (as well as a little bit messy!) as it gives the whole family the chance to play together.”
Chief Nurse Charlotte Hall said: “Whether it’s for an outpatient appointment, an operation, or for those who are very sick and need to stay with us for a little while, we have a great team of staff caring for the children and young people who come to our hospitals.
“The atmosphere in Queen Mary’s and on the children’s wards at Epsom during Play in Hospital Week was amazing. Everyone was able to get involved (including members of staff who had their faces painted!), and enjoy something extra special to help lift their spirits and take their mind off of being in hospital. The team certainly showed why play matters – a big thank you to them and to everyone involved in celebrating the week.”