Children and young people's play department 

Play is medicine too...

Play is a normal and enjoyable part of childhood as well as being an essential part of children’s mental, social and emotional growth and well-being. So it is as important for babies and children to be able to play when they are in hospital as it is any where else. For teenagers too, creative and recreational activities are important to help them to settle into the hospital, continue doing the things they enjoy and to be able to socialise and make new friends.

Play and recreation are also known to help children and young people feel more relaxed when they are anxious and can be used educationally or therapeutically to help young patients to better understand about their health, illness and treatment. All inpatient child or adolescent wards in the Trust have well-equipped play or activity rooms. The Children and Young People’s Outpatients’ Department and other clinics are similarly well-equipped, providing a warm welcome to young patients.

The UCLH Play Department consists of 19 qualified and experienced hospital play specialists (HPS) or activity coordinators, working in many areas across the Trust’s hospitals and clinics. This group of staff:

  • leads a wide range of creative, recreational and social activities for babies, children and teenagers
  • enables children and young people to understand their hospital experiences, through age appropriate teaching and guided play
  • supports children and young people during invasive procedures by providing alternative focus activities and distraction
  • gives advice on appropriate play and approaches for sick and injured children to parents and staff
  • works closely with other members of the medical and nursing team to provide family-centred care.

The HPS or activity coordinator will encourage children and young people to develop their creative skills to boost their self-esteem and confidence and to show their thoughts and worries relating to hospital, and by helping them to adapt to any restrictions they may have resulting from hospitalisation or recurring illness.  Other aspects of the work of the HPS or activity coordinator may include:

  • encouraging learning about how to be healthy and care well for themselves
  • organising special entertainment and celebrity visitors
  • arranging parties for special events like birthdays 
  • fundraising 
  • taking patients on outings.

As a group of staff we support the education and training of medical and nursing staff, hospital play specialists, radiographers and child life specialists from the USA and New Zealand by providing student internships, ward-based teaching and giving lectures at universities and conferences.

For further information please contact:
UCLH play services manager

Telephone: 020 3447 4626

Donations of toys and books are always welcome, both new and secondhand.

If you wish to donate money, contact UCL Hospitals Charity Play Department, Fund 0657


UCLH Play department

 Contact details

Play services manager - Irene O'Donnell
Telephone: 020 3447 4626
Email: Irene.O'