Starlight’s 2020 Health Play Specialist of the Year is crowned!

As part of our annual celebration of Play in Hospital Week, the national awareness week focusing on the important role of play and distraction in children’s hospital treatment, Starlight conducted a nationwide search for an outstanding Health Play Specialist of the Year.

This year we were also excited to introduce a brand-new category, Play Team of the Year, to celebrate the incredible teamwork seen on hospital wards across the country.

Health Play Specialist of the Year 2020

So without further ado… Starlight’s third ever Play Specialist of the Year is….

Lisa Beaumont from Leeds Childrens’ Hospital!

Inspired by her own time in hospital as a child, Lisa has dedicated 32 years of her life to helping children in hospitals who are suffering through serious illnesses, by providing play and distraction to support young patients in the medical setting. She was nominated by her colleague Neoma Jacobs because of her dedication over the years, particularly during the pandemic.

“Lisa has fought to take on new play staff and secured some permanent jobs. Without Lisa in her role, the play staff could have been removed from the wards during Covid-19 meaning hundreds of children would have gone without play and support during such a difficult time.”

Lisa spent periods of time in hospital as a child and still remembers the feelings of anxiety as she sat for long periods alone on a bed waiting for or enduring procedures. Those events would later motivate Lisa into a lifetime of working with children, using play combined with passion to make a difference.

From proving the point of play when such a role was still rare three decades ago, to building a dedicated team, pushing boundaries, blagging freebies and literally making children’s dreams come true – Lisa embodies the heart and soul of the Starlight award.

As you can tell, Health Play Specialists like Lisa, truly are some of the many unsung heroes of the NHS, pour their time into ensuring that seriously ill children can still experience the value and joy of play.

I love to make a difference to sick children, you can’t always train that. As well as doing my job I am passionate about making a difference to their life really.

Play Team of the Year

This year, we introduced a new category for the award: Play Team of the Year which was won by none other than Lisa’s own Play Team at Leeds Childrens’ Hospital!

“The whole play team at Leeds have worked throughout Covid to try give the patients and families some normality in a strange and scary time.

Without the play team many patients would have had Swabs with no prep or support, shielding families would have gone without snacks and supplies, patients would have gone through major surgeries without family and friends being able to visit and many families would have missed out on important end of life memory making.

They truly are amazing people who have gone above and beyond their usually job role to provide and care for the patients and their families.”

Starlight Play Specialist of the year is again supported by Ryman who have provided prizes of vouchers, and arts and craft materials to help the winners and runners-up keep their cupboards well stocked. Ryman Chairman Theo Paphitis said:

“Lisa and her team have been recognised by colleagues and award judges for their outstanding work helping children in hospitals. Their nomination and work demonstrates the importance of making time to play in hospital even in the most difficult circumstances. Ryman is proud to support Starlight and this award once again.”

Well done to Lisa and the Play Team at Leeds Children’s Hospital and thank you for the work you do every day!

Congratulations also to our incredible 2020 runners up...

Michelle Crockett- Bristol Royal Hospital for Children

“The entire nursing and medical team are so grateful for Michelle and the magic she works – she makes it look effortless, but the truth is that she works extremely hard every minute of every day. She is totally dedicated to her job and the families she cares for and goes above and beyond every single day to make their stay in hospital as positive an experience as possible.”

Michelle’s kind nature and dedication to her job completely embodies the theme ‘Playing Well Together’ and despite many fantastic nominations, she had to be our runner up.

Nicola Wright- Peterborough City Hospital

“Play is such a vital part of a child’s life and even more so when they are in hospital. I’m proud to be a part of a fabulous team at Peterborough City Hospital who always go the extra mile to support patients and their families. I have seen first-hand the impact that play can have on a patient and their family, which for me this is the greatest reward.”