Play services for hospitalized children must be made compulsory – despite infection concerns, charity says | UK News

The power of play to help children cope with time spent in hospital should be prioritized rather than seen as ‘optional’, a charity has warned.

Research by health gaming organization Starlight found that access to gaming in hospitals has since declined. the pandemicpartly due to financial pressures, but also due to concerns about infection control.

Now Adrian Voce, the charity’s head of policy and public affairs, wants to see ‘compulsory health play services’ in all healthcare settings where there are children.

“The hospital can be a strange, sometimes scary environment, and the Health Games Specialist helps make [children] feel more at home,” he said.

“It is very important for their mental health and well-being that they have daily opportunities to play … so we are working with NHS England to look at issues of standards, guidance and above all for all health authorities to make funding available to provide the services children need.”

Hundreds of healthcare facilities requesting resources such as toys and games from Starlight were surveyed, and results revealed that 83% do not have access to a game budget at all.

Of those who do, 70% have less than £500 a year to spend.

In addition, a quarter of the establishments surveyed do not employ any specialist in health games, an increase of 7% since last year.

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“It was really, really difficult”

At Kingston Hospital in Surrey there are five gambling specialists, including Julie Morris.

It’s work she describes as “incredibly rewarding”, which goes far beyond just playing.

“It might be getting the kids ready for the procedures. It might be getting the kids used to having blood tests, observations, and then going through that whole trip to the hospital, so they’re able to deal with things when they get home,” she said.

“We have parents who come to tell us about their experiences, and it’s been really, really difficult for them not to play and just someone to come and see their child every day and give them a break and have fun activities. .”

Sailojan plays with game specialist Julie Morris
Image:
Game specialist Julie Morris plays with three-year-old Sailojan

“It helps him not to focus on what he’s going through”

Lojika Sudharman’s three-year-old son, Sailojan, had to be hospitalized after developing breathing problems.

It was the fifth time he had to spend the night in a hospital, but the first time in Kingston. Never before have game specialists been on hand to enhance the experience.

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“I guess he knows he’s not well, but having all these things he likes, like he likes to play with bubbles and paint, it distracts him, so it helps him not to focus. about what he’s going through,” she added. said.

“Obviously calming him down will also help because when he cries his breathing gets worse.”

‘In his head, he goes there to play’

Susana Casanova’s six-year-old son, Alfonso, has leukemia and is receiving chemotherapy as part of his treatment.

“It was during one of our stays at Kingston Hospital… that we realized the critical importance of gambling specialists in hospitals,” she said.

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“They are so relevant to parents because they are able to distract us from our dramas and, for moments, also from treatment.”

She added that Alfonso is “never upset when he has to go to the hospital”.

“In his head, he goes there to play and see the game specialists – his friends. His twin brother wants to go there too.”

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