Health Play Specialist at London Hospital Wins Award for Work with Seriously Ill Children


This week, Starlight Children’s Foundation recognised the work of a health play specialist from The Royal London Hospital (RLH) with an award for their outstanding work in play and distraction. Following a nationwide search Janie, a health play specialist working in the emergency department of The Royal London Hospital, was presented with the award and the prize, supplied by Ryman.

Each year, Starlight conducts a nationwide search for the winning health play specialist; discovering inspirational stories of the outstanding work they do, and the impact their work has on patients and colleagues. Janie was nominated by colleagues for the impact she has on the children she works with and the wider medical team. Play and distraction is an integral part of treatment for a child in hospital, in Janie’s case when they arrive at A&E, but for others who may have ongoing treatment it is important and invaluable in preserving childhood while in hospital.

The winner of the Starlight Health Play Specialist of the Year Award, Janie Saunders, remarks; “This means so much to me – to be nominated by senior members of the A&E team, who I have huge respect for is truly overwhelming. A huge thank you to Starlight, to be judged on my work and what I do on the ‘shop floor’ means an immeasurable amount and I am truly humbled. This secures the thought that the team I work with recognise play and my role as an important part of a child’s journey in A&E.

Cathy Gilman Starlight CEO, and one of the three judges, states; “Starlight recognises the importance of play and distraction and is dedicated to supporting health play specialists with our services. Janie’s nomination stood out to all the judges due to her commitment to going above and beyond with incredible results in a very challenging environment.”

Ryman Chairman Theo Paphitis, who is supporting the award and providing the prize, comments; “It is clear to see the value of health play specialists in making the whole experience of serious illness and treatment much better for children and their families.  They really are unsung heroes and that’s why I’m delighted that this Ryman is supporting and recognising the Starlight Health Play Specialist of the Year Award.”

Janie’s work shone through and was exemplified through the examples of what her day-to-day work entails. Arriving in A&E, a child can be traumatised and the role Janie plays to help prepare them to receive the medical attention they need is a vital part of their admission and treatment.

Starlight introduced this annual award to recognise and acknowledge the importance of having play and distraction in a healthcare setting, awarding it during the National Associations of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) awareness week for ‘Play in Hospital’.

The Royal London Hospital is one of the UK’s largest children’s hospitals and has one of London’s busiest paediatric Accident and Emergency departments – the department Janie is based in.