Play in Hospital Awards 2023: a recap!

Jess takes us behind-the-scenes on what makes up our awards!

The Starlight Health Play Awards happen annually during Play in Hospital Week to celebrate outstanding play professionals across the country. It’s such a privilege to be a part of the process and see, first hand, what this recognition means to the winners and those nominated.

We opened the nominations to the public way back in June. Reading the wonderful words colleagues and patients had written about health play specialists quickly became the favourite part of my day. It was overwhelming to see how many people had changed patients’ lives through play and fought for play to be protected.

Judging day then came around and I knew it was going to be a difficult decision for the judges; the standard was so high. The judging panel consisted of Cathy Gilman (Starlight’s CEO), Laura Walsh (Starlight’s Head of Play), Kate Pye (Deputy Director of Children and Young People’s Nursing at NHS England) and Penelope Hart-Spencer (Chair of National Association of Health Play Specialists) and they really had their work cut out for them.

After years of virtual ceremonies due to the pandemic, we finally got to go into a couple of the hospitals to award the winners in person. It was very emotional and abundantly clear how much of a positive and significant impact these play professionals had.

We made sure that senior members of the hospital or hospice were present to witness this impact and recognition. Part of the purpose of the awards is to raise the profile of play professionals, not only within their hospitals, but also in the media. ITV came to our Health Play Specialist of the Year ceremony to report on how health play specialists are changing young people’s lives in hospital.

It was such a joy to hear heartfelt speeches from their colleagues and patients. One parent said in her speech to the Health Play Specialist of the Year winner:

It’s hard to measure the impact you must have had on the lives of so many children and their families as they pass through the Emergency Department. There are so many gifts you have given because you are a gift. Thank you.