New Play Specialists changing children's lives at Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital

  • Watch this report by ITV Meridian's Stacey Poole

Going to Accident and Emergency Departments can be a daunting experience for anyone, but for children who are unwell and in pain, it's a very scary place to be, especially if they have additional needs.

Now play specialists have been introduced at the Children's Hospital at the John Radcliffe in Oxford.

It's having a huge impact, not just for the children, but also the NHS teams who can work more efficiently.

One of them - Emily Hodgkins, has now been awarded for being the best in Britain at improving the experience of children in Accident and Emergency.

She has won the Starlight Health Play Specialist of the Year, a national award that recognises inspirational healthcare workers. Emily is one of a team of specialists who work at Oxford's Childrens Hospital.

Through the power of play, they reduce stress, anxiety and fear of the hospital setting.

The specialists work with both the children and their families. Credit: ITV Meridian

Sarah Williams has been to A&E with her 8-year-old daughter, on so many occasions throughout the past two years.

Now, Emily will meet them at the door and stay with them through their stay, so that she can support both Emily and her mum through what can be a very traumatic time.

Sarah has nothing but praise for Emily: "Emily feels like a gift, and I think she really is a gift to so many patient," she said.

And it's not just the families who recognise the difference she makes other team members are also full of compliments. Claire Osbourne is a children's practitioner and she says Emily transforms her day.

"As soon as I see Emily in her red shirt down the end of the corridor, I know that my shift is going to be a better day."

Emily will meet the family at the door and be with them through their stay. Credit: ITV Meridian

Emily is very modest about her role, saying it's a privilege to do what she does and every day is different, but she does hope that this award and hearing from the families will encourage other hospitals to have play specialists in A&E.

"Im really happy that play is being recognised in this way, especially in accident and emergency, it makes a difference to the children, the families and other members in the team.

"I'm hoping that all the A&E's across the country that don't have play specialists will look and see how important the role is."

But for those children and families who already are cared for by Emily, there is no doubt how important she is. Edith's mum sums it up perfectly: "She is warm, she is caring, she is thoughtful, she knows when she needs to be there for the parents and when she needs to look after the children.

"She's there for a hug, for cups of tea, she's there for every moment of your journey through A&E.

"She is wonderful just wonderful."

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