Services provided by the Play department

The Play department at Great Ormond Street Hospital provides normal every day play and specialist play preparation for children and young people in outpatient clinics and on the wards.

Play preparation or general play is a way to help children and young people deal with any fears or worries about hospital, illness or treatment and to form coping strategies. 

There are various aspects to general play including preparation, distraction and assessment. 

What do play specialists and play workers provide?

  • Creative, recreational and social activities which bring entertainment and fun into a potentially stressful environment.

  • Support for children/young people and their family members to adjust to the hospital environment.

  • A reassuring experience to increase each individual child/adolescent's confidence, self-esteem and independence.

  • Preparation and distraction for procedures and treatments.

  • Help for children/young people to recognise and form their own coping strategies, which will enable them to cope with a hospital admission, treatments and procedures.

  • Support and advice to parents/carers on appropriate play for sick or injured children/young people. 

  • Play sessions to help children gain skills lost through regression or effects of illness and hospitalisation.

What makes a play specialist and play worker different?

There are a number of differences between play specialists and play workers, some of which include:

  • Play workers hold Level 3 Childcare qualifications, while play specialists hold a specific hospital play specialist qualification as well as a Level 3 Childcare qualification. 

  • Play workers offer generalised play in a safe, age appropriate manner, which is sensitive to the child’s specific needs, as well as offering normalisation and distraction inbetween treatments and procedures.

  • Play workers support parents by offering advice on activities and equipment which support their child’s development.

  • Play specialists offer distraction, relaxation and desensitisation techniques for children undergoing medical procedures. These techniques are underpinned by general play so the patients relate and engage with the techniques, which is why the two roles appear so similar.

  • Play specialists support parents with coping strategies for children undergoing physical, behavioural or personality changes.