Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital hosted the launch of this year’s National Play in Hospital Week on the afternoon of Monday 8th October.

The annual event, which this year runs from Monday 8th–14th October, is organised by the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and supported by Starlight Children’s Foundation, a national charity which provides play and distraction services in hospitals and hospices across the UK. 

National Play in Hospital Week was set up in 2010 to raise awareness of the positive impact that play has on children and young people in a hospital setting and sees many hospitals and hospices across the country take part in a series of fun activities throughout the week.

As the largest and busiest children’s hospital in the UK, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital was the perfect venue to host this year’s official launch of National Play in Hospital Week. Patients and staff gathered in the foyer of the hospital to hear speeches from the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Deputy Director of Nursing Michele Milner and Susan Fairclough, Therapeutic and Specialised Play Service Manager and the Chair of the National Association of Health Play Specialists Penelope Hart-Spencer on the importance of play in hospital, before children and families were treated to a magnificent superhero flash-mob, face painters and the RMCH mascot; Humphrey Bear.

 Hospital staff also got into the spirit of the day by dressing up as super heroes to tie in with this year’s National Play in Hospital Week’s theme, ‘Everyday Heroes’.  For the first time ever, this year’s National Play in Hospital Week also included the Starlight Health Play Specialist of the Year Awards. The winners were nominated by health professionals from across the country and Cathy Gilman, Starlight’s CEO presented the winner Frenchesca James, Youth Support Co-Ordinator at University College London Hospital with the award.

Many hospitals including Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital now employ Health Play Specialists within children’s wards to provide play, recreation and activities to assist patient development and to prepare them for procedures, treatment and surgery.

With nearly 49,000 children and young people in the UK living with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition and 5,500 new diagnoses each year, the need for play and entertainment services for children in hospitals has never been greater. Research has further highlighted the importance of play in hospital, both in preparing children for what is going to happen and in providing ways for them to work through anxieties and fears and to deal with their experiences.

Cathy Gilman, CEO of Starlight Children’s Foundation, said “Play and distraction is a vital resource for hospitals and hospices in the treatment of children and young people with critical illness and long-term conditions. It isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an essential service for maintaining the wellbeing and normal, healthy development of children and young people as well as being a coping strategy before and during treatment. National Play in Hospital Week is a big part of recognising the impact that play has in a hospital setting and celebrating the work of Health Play Specialists across the country. We thank all the hospitals, staff, patients and visitors for getting behind this year’s event.”

Susan Fairclough, Therapeutic and Specialised Play Service Manager at RMCH said “It is great to be part of National Play in Hospital week again, it provides the opportunity to reflect upon the work we do and also to celebrate the great impact that play has on young patients across the UK.  Both staff and patients love getting involved in the activities and this year we have a packed schedule of events taking place across the week, including performances from some of the children’s favourite entertainers including Magic Makers, Music for Health, POD Entertainers and Read for Good.”


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