Protector of Play of the Year: Debbie Smith

The winner of this year’s Protector of Play Award is Debbie Smith, from Leeds Children’s Hospital!

With over 27 years of experience, Debbie has always championed play as a nurse, a sister and now as the ward manager for paediatric cardiology. Debbie respects how valuable play is for children’s emotional well-being and practical understanding. She also ensures the ward is a playful environment by being a huge advocate for the play team and encouraging all staff to involve play during treatments.

"The title "Protector of Play" holds such a special significance, and I was amazed to learn that it was a national award, not just local. I am so happy and honoured to receive this recognition, and the fact that the prize includes resources for our ward is truly wonderful."

Debbie Smith

Debbie has always put the needs of the patients at the forefront of her career, and in doing so, has always been a keen protector of play and the child's right to play. Debbie will always advocate for the patients and ensure that play is offered and play staff are involved in supporting, preparing, distracting and providing play opportunities. This naturally occurring playful environment is all thanks to Debbie being the advocate and protector of play that she is.

Emma Marshall, Senior Registered Health Play Specialist, at Leeds Children’s Hospital

"It’s healthcare specialists like Debbie who are our real life superheroes. Debbie is a natural protector of play, and this is reflected by play being seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of the ward. When we ask children about being in hospital the over-whelming response is that hospital is scary and play makes it better. Debbie is a true inspiration."

Cathy Gilman, Chief Executive of Starlight