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Hospital play staff

Play has a special function in the hospital environment, and hospital/registered play specialists lead playful activities and use play as therapeutic tool. They are neither play therapists nor play leaders.

Play specialists work closely as part of the multi-disciplinary team, and:

  • organise daily play and art activities in the playroom or at the bedside
  • provide play to achieve developmental goals 
  • help children master and cope with anxieties and feelings 
  • use play to prepare children for hospital procedures 
  • support families and siblings 
  • contribute to clinical judgements through their play-based observations 
  • teach the value of play for the sick child 
  • encourage peer group friendships to develop 
  • organise parties and special events

As the career title implies, staff work in hospitals. Some play staff will work in hospices and other community-based settings.

New hospitals are designed with playrooms in place and old ones are adapted to incorporate more play space. Children's hospitals in Britain have large play departments employing up to 40 hospital play specialists each. In general hospitals, small teams of play staff work in different areas of the hospital, such as out patients clinics, children's units and adolescent wards.

Career prospects

Play staff start work as play assistants, and progress with further training and experience to work as basic grade hospital play specialists. With further experience and training, they may gain more responsibility as a team leader or team manager.

Entry requirements

Hospital play assistants will usually need a professional childcare qualification at level 3.

A basic grade hospital play specialist will usually need to hold a Level 4 Diploma in Specialised Play for Sick Children and Young People/ Edexcel Certificate in Hospital Play Specialism/HPSC/HPSEB or the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism which was introduced in 2010 and has now replaced  the Level 4 Diploma for new entrants.

They may also need NHS training in child protection issues. Relevant experience is often a prerequisite.

More senior hospital play staff will usually need to hold a Level 4 Diploma in Specialised Play for Children and Young People/Edexcel Certificate in Hospital Play Specialism or HPSC/HPSEB, or the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism, and have undertaken training in child protection. They will usually require relevant postqualifying experience.


Individuals who already hold a professional childcare qualification and either wish to work, or already work within the NHS and would like to become qualified hospital play specialists, will need to complete the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism.

This qualification is recognised as the requirement for application for professional registration with the Hospital Play Staff Education Trust (HPSET). Both the qualification and professional registration together form the recognised National Health Service (NHS) qualification and standard for hospital play staff.

Learners must have a professional childcare qualification at level 3 or above and post-qualifying experience of working in a childcare setting before commencing the programme. There may be additional requirements - contact the Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust for details and for a list of approved courses:

Ann Goodwin, Administrator
Healthcare Play Specialist Education Trust (HPSET)
P.O. Box 102
HU16 9AE

Tel : 07514 076008
Email: admin@hpset.org.uk
Website: http://www.hpset.org.uk

Pay for hospital play staff

Pay will depend upon the level of post and be between Band 4 and Band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay system. Please see the pay for wider healthcare team staff page for further information.

Job vacancies

Job vacancies will appear in a range of sources, including the NHS Jobs website and local press. You could also contact the human resources department of the NHS trusts in your area to enquire about opportunities.

Further information

For more information about hospital play staff, contact:

Jackie Ellis
National Association of Hospital Play Specialists (NAHPS)
Forty Green

Website: http://www.nahps.org.uk/