"Children are acutely unwell and have had everything taken away" - the work of play specialists at Leeds Children's Hospital wins award

Two play therapists who work with some of the most seriously ill children in the country have been awarded for their efforts.

By Emma Ryan
Sunday, 20th September 2020, 11:45 am

Lisa Beaumont and Neoma Jacobs work on the play unit at Leeds Children's Hospital and were nominated by a young patient for a heroes award.

Every year, The Barrie Wells Trust has a scheme called Box4Kids where children are nominated by hospital and hospice staff to attend a VIP day out at a sporting or entertainment event in the comfort and luxury of an executive box.

However, with Box4Kids events on hold due to the Covid-19 situation, the trust, which organises days out for sick children, instigated a reversal of Box4Kids, by which children nominate their 'hero' from a hospital or hospice.

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Members from the Play Team at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust with their awards. Neoma Jacobs(left) and Lisa Beaumont outside the Clarendon wing Leeds General Infirmary. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Phoebe Pace had liver failure at one-year-old and needed a transplant to survive. She had that operation and at ten-years-old has now previously won medals at the British and at the World Transplant Games and will be representing Leeds Children’s Hospital in the Westfield Health British Transplant Games in 2021 in Leeds. She is still an outpatient receiving specialist care at Leeds Children’s Hospital.

She nominated Lisa and Neoma for the service they provide at the Children's Hospital which is based in Leeds General Infirmary and last week they were presented with their awards which also coincided with Organ Donation Week.

Lisa, who leads the play unit team of 30 staff, said she was humbled and gobsmacked by the award.

She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "I got an email and a phone call from the Barrie Wells Trust and a piece from Pheobe about why she had nominated us. They gave eight reasons why we had been nominated and it was quite humbling. To win, I was absolutely gobsmacked. I felt very humbled that somebody had taken the time to do that."

During the coronavirus pandemic she said that the play team had been busier than ever trying to look after patients and keep their spirits up as visitor numbers have been restricted.

She added: "We have just been so busy here. With visiting restrictions, children in hospital can't have friends visit, so the whole team, and we are just two of them, have been very patient focused. If we think lockdown is bad, at least we go home every day, imagine being in hospital for five months."

There are only three centres in the country that offer the training needed to be a play specialist and the role goes much further than toys and games - which is why the duo were nominated.

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"The two other elements are preparation play, so preparing children for their procedures that they are going to have. Say it is a liver transplant, we do role play to make sure they understand what is going to be happening to them, what their scar will look like, what they will feel like. There is lots of research that shows, even as an adult, if you are prepared for something that is going to happen, you cope better, their recovery is stronger.

"The third is distraction. If they are having a cannula, catheter or chest frame fitted for example, we use a range of things to keep them calm while they have the procedure done. If they are engaged in a game or deep breathing that will make them less tense.

"We really are a profession within its own right and I feel very privileged."

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Thank you

Laura Collins