Health Play Specialist of the Year Runner Up: Claire Thompson

We’re proud to say this year’s runner up for the Health Play Specialist of the Year award is Claire Thompson, a Health Play Specialist at West Suffolk Hospital.

Claire has been a Health Play Specialist since 1999, and at West Suffolk Hospital for 18 months. She joined West Suffolk, and specifically the Paediatric Emergency Department, to set up a brand-new play service as previously there was no play provision within the department.

Claire was brought in as a charity initiative, and her role is proudly funded by My WiSH Charity, which supports the patients of the West Suffolk Hospital, Newmarket Community Hospitals and community services in Suffolk.

Since joining the team, Claire has transformed the West Suffolk’s A&E. She’s decorated the area with themed displays and information boards, spread Starlight stickers around the waiting room, bays and bathrooms, and brought in lots of toys, books and arts and crafts to hand out to the children waiting.

Her colleagues share that since arriving at West Suffolk, Claire has turned what used to be a boring and very-adult space into a child-friendly and welcoming place.

Claire is enthusiastic in her job role and is always looking to provide the best possible experience in hospital to make all the difficult times a little easier. Hospitals can be a daunting and traumatising place for anyone, but Claire's interventions lead happier and more comfortable children.

Paige, Student Nurse and Colleague

As a Health Play Specialist, Claire knows how vitally important play is for every child but especially those in hospital. Through her work she’s seen how it helps normalise the hospital experience, supports the children, young people and their families through difficult times, makes the hospital less scary, and ensures where possible a positive experience that hopefully prevents future phobias.

Because she knows how important play is for a child’s hospital experience, Claire goes out of her way to ensure play is provided for each child who visits her A&E. She uses Starlight Boost Boxes all the time. These help boost a child’s spirits as Claire can hand out stickers, toys, teddies and so much more for a child to enjoy in hospital and then take home with them as a reward.

Like many other Play Departments, Claire has little budget to supply play resources for the A&E, and often uses My WiSH Charity funds to purchase toys and resources. So on top of using her own money to purchase items and making use of the Starlight resources sent over, Claire has set up an Amazon Wish List for people to contribute to. This allows the public to donate items Claire and her department need to provide play and distraction to the children in her ward.

It means everything to get the recognition of what we do as a profession of Play Specialists, and to receive acknowledgement for some of the positive changes I've managed to introduce to the department since starting here.


We’re so proud to have Claire as our 2022 Health Play Specialist of the Year Runner Up, and we’re so thankful for all the hard work she does for the children at West Suffolk Hospital.

Visit our 2022 Play in Hospital Week hub to learn more about this year’s winners and see how else we’re celebrating.