Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) Play Team, which supports opportunities for children and young people to play while they are being cared for in hospital, has kicked off this year’s Play in Hospital Week.

The week runs from October 11 to 17 and is organised by the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and Starlight Children’s Foundation.

Play In Hospital Week raises awareness of the benefits of play in the treatment of poorly children across the UK.

Oxford University Hospitals was chosen by NAHPS and Starlight to launch this year’s awareness week.

Jo Pinney, senior health lay specialist at Oxford University Hospitals, said: “We are thrilled that we have been chosen as the launch hospital for Play in Hospital Week. It gives us the opportunity to show to our colleagues here at OUH, and nationally, what brilliant services we offer here – and how play is so important to young patients.”

Oxford Mail: Jo Pinney and the team launching Play in Hospital Week (Oxford University Hospitals)Jo Pinney and the team launching Play in Hospital Week (Oxford University Hospitals)

The theme for this year – ‘Playing through the pandemic: a narrative of positive interventions’ – celebrates how play teams across the country have been keeping play at the heart of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Play is a valuable resource to the NHS and has a positive impact on the wellbeing of children and young people through serious illness and hospital treatment.

Some of the benefits of play, according to Starlight, include:

  • Improving young people’s experience of hospital
  • Boosting their wellbeing and reducing anxiety, fear, and stress
  • Reducing a child’s feeling of pain
  • More engagement with treatment
  • Giving the patient more sense of control and autonomy
  • Strengthening family wellbeing and relationships

There are 24 members of the OUH Play Team, including seven senior play specialists, play specialists, and play assistants.

Together, they cover the Horton General Hospital in Banbury and, in Oxford, the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre and John Radcliffe Hospital.

In the latter, they support children being cared for in the Children’s Hospital, Emergency Department, critical care, and radiology.

On a typical day, play staff see approximately 100 children, preparing them for surgery, distracting them from invasive procedures, or providing them with coping techniques, among other things.

Sarah Vaccari, Head of Communications at Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: “The play specialists in our hospitals have such an important role – coaxing giggles from a baby in pain, distracting toddlers during difficult procedures, and calming teens afraid of what lies ahead.

“They are simply invaluable, and the Oxford Hospitals Charity team is so proud to be able to support them through our of funding for toys, tech, and play areas.”