How it works
Starlight works to promote and support the right to play for children in the healthcare system. We deliver direct services and resources to children and families to make the hospital experience more positive and treatment less traumatic; we create opportunities for social connection for them and their families; and by listening, learning, and sharing knowledge we connect and collaborate with other organisations to work towards systemic change in the provision of play in healthcare settings.
We have recently developed a new policy and public affairs strategy with the overall aim that public policy for children’s healthcare fully reflects the importance of play to their health, wellbeing, resilience, and recovery – and that this translates into more and better health play services for more children.
What has been achieved?
In 2021, we reached over 1.2 million children in almost 500 hospitals across the UK. We distributed 4,481 Distraction Boxes and Boost Boxes, and 207 gaming bundles. We welcomed 202 families to the return of our in-person events, whilst still supporting 302 children at home with our virtual parties and resources. More recently we have been providing support to the Covid vaccination programme, helping to make the process more child-friendly and accessible to more children.
We have convened a regular health play forum to bring together practitioners, researchers, and health service executives to consider how children’s health services can better respond to children’s needs and rights to play. We are working with NHS officials and practitioner bodies to consider the potential for the role of health play specialist to become a regulated health profession working to nationally recognised and adopted standards for health play services.
Our vaccine programme support work is being evaluated for wider application and we have launched a new initiative to pilot Starlight funded Health Play Specialists in healthcare settings across the UK. These new roles will directly support the provision of play for the seriously ill children who need it most. We are also piloting the use of Virtual Reality technology in children’s care and treatment.
In the policy sphere we continue to work with the institutions of the NHS to support them to fully respond to the recommendations of the 2021 NICE guidance to ensure: “easily accessible, age-appropriate play and recreation for children and young people, including to reduce boredom and anxiety while waiting for appointments or interventions” and to “Reduce the fear and anxiety about pain that may be experienced by babies, children and young people during healthcare interventions by … using therapeutic play and distraction techniques and creating a calm environment…”
(NICE Guideline on Babies, children and young people's experience of healthcare, 25 August 2021)