The CHT team discuss the ‘Impact and Importance of Hospital Play’

On Thursday 24th January 2024, Children’s Heartbeat Trust in partnership with Children in Hospital Ireland (CiHI) held a seminar on the ‘Impact and Importance of Play’.

The seminar was funded by The Community Foundation Ireland’s All Island Fund, and attended by charities working directly with children across the island, Health Play Specialists and Department of Health representatives.

The morning started with our Research & Policy Officer Joan Aiken, and Helen Jones, CiHI, presenting their joint research on ‘The State of Play’ across the island of Ireland. Their research looks at the evidenced benefits and impact on patients, their families and hospital teams; the current landscape – what is available and where across the island and how specialised play had ‘fallen off’ policies or not been delivered in both jurisdictions.

The second morning session was delivered by Naomi Spence, Haematology/Oncology Health Play Team Manager. Naomi discussed her background and the changes to play in hospital and the work she also delivers in family homes preparing children for surgeries and treatments. We were delighted to be joined by Sharon Lowry for this session, mum to Annabelle, who described perfectly the impact that play had on her daughter’s treatment, making both her family and Annabelle more confident, prepared and less anxious.

Lively discussions closed these sessions with attendees asking both our morning speakers and others in the room lots of questions. Jacklyn Jamieson, Play Services Co-Ordinator at Belfast Trust, spoke passionately about what her concerns for play were and what she’d like to see in the future including, a qualification delivered in NI, a body to advocate and be a voice for play, a structure with management who value play and a volunteer service in hospital.

Fiona Smith, Arts Programme Curator for Children Health Ireland, kicked off the afternoon sessions with a presentation on designing and delivering arts projects within the hospital setting. This was a joyous thirty minutes, leaving the room in no doubt of the power of art and how it can work alongside play.

We were thrilled to be able to secure Paulina Perez-Durante Mendiola to close the seminar. Paulina is a clinical paediatrician, medical anthropologist and current PhD researcher at Cambridge, who delivered a much-anticipated presentation on Play & Health. Paulina has been a huge advocate for play and her session was inspiring for all there with continual involvement from the audience.

The Health Play Specialists in attendance thanked the two charities for shining a light on play, with one commenting it has ‘reinvigorated’ them and another finding it ‘inspirational’. There are lots of takeaways and discussions to be had amongst the policy makers and charities to see how we can work together with play teams across the island to improve access to play for the families we each support.

Thank you to all the speakers, charities and organisations who attended.

CHT Team ❤️