More than half of hospitals do not have a budget for children’s toys, a charity has warned.
Starlight, set up to ensure play opportunities for seriously ill children, said more than half of hospitals do not have access to play specialists even though 20 years ago the Government said every child should be able to access one.
The charity found that of the 510 hospitals, hospices and health organisations it works with across the UK, 53 per cent had no budget for play resources.
Of the 135 that had funds for play, the majority had a budget of less than £500 for the year, while those with the biggest budgets, of £5,000 and above, were mainly large and specialist children’s hospitals.
Some NHS play specialists told Starlight they had sometimes paid for toys and other resources themselves.
Helping to ease anxiety and stress
Cathy Gilman, the chief executive of Starlight, said: “Sadly for children in hospital, access to play and play professionals is a permanent problem which has undoubtedly been exacerbated by Covid and that needs an ongoing concerted effort to resolve.
“We know that children need access to play as a crucial part of their development and to help them cope with life’s challenges. This is never more important than when they face the anxiety and uncertainty of serious illness, long-term conditions and hospital stays.
“Families have told us, when their children are treated in different hospitals, that the difference in play provision is clearly obvious. The same child can have a very different hospital experience. We need to see distraction and play available in all hospital and healthcare settings”.
Research suggests play eases children’s anxiety and stress during hospital stays, while the distraction can reduce their pain.