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National Association of Hospital Play Staff Milestones

1957 It is thought that the first staff to play with child patients at St.Bartholomew’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals London, were called "Lady Greens" by the children themselves because of their uniforms.

1959 The Welfare of Children in Hospital (Platt Report) recognised that an unoccupied child is less likely to be happy than one with interesting things to do. “Where play can be organised under skilled supervision it is particularly useful”.

1963 Susan Harvey, Save the Children Fund advisor, is credited as the Founder of Play in Hospital. Following her discussions with Dr David Morris consultant paediatrician, innovative work began as Save the Children Fund employed Gabi Marston as the first Hospital Play Staff at the Brook Hospital, London. Over the years Save the Children established many successful hospital play schemes which went on to become an integral part of hospital services. During this time Peg Belson, a founder member of Mother Care for Children in Hospital- later to become the National Association of the Welfare of Children in Hospital (NAWCH) was instrumental in using the organisation to raise awareness of the importance of play in hospital.

1972 The Department of Health and Social Security commissioned an Expert Group on Play in Hospital which recommended the employment of play staff on children’s wards. Their report was not published until 1976.

1973 The first training course for Hospital Play Specialists was established at Chiswick College under the guidance of Susan Harvey, Gabi Marston and Dr Hugh Jolly. This moved to Southwark College in 1978 and was the forerunner of our present training.

1975 Hospital Play Specialists established the National Association of Hospital Play Staff (NAHPS) and was made up of 28 play staff including Pamela Barnes and Sheila Docherty. 10 other professions representing nursing, medicine, social work and the voluntary sector were listed as members including our patron, Dr Richard Wilson.

1976 The first NAHPS Newsletter was published to coincide with the inaugural meeting. NAHPS now prints a bi-annual Journal informing members and allied professions of the skilled work of colleagues throughout the UK.

1977 At the AGM, the first of the "Let's Play" leaflets was launched. There are now a series of leaflets, reading lists and booklists available offering expert advice on different aspects of Play in Hospital.

1978 NAHPS began organising National Study Days and Open Meetings. Today these are a regular and valuable feature of its work in supporting its member’s continual professional development.

1980 A DHSS Survey showed that one third of all children's wards had paid Play Workers.

1981 NAHPS became a member of the Play in Hospital Liaison Committee (PHLC) joining Save the Children Fund, National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital and Pre-school Playgroups Association.

1985 NAHPS initiated the establishment of The Hospital Play Staff Examination Board,  (HPSEB) to institute a national qualification for the profession. Pamela Barnes became the first chair of HPSEB later known as the Hospital Play Staff Education Trust (HPSET). The aims of the Trust include the:

Advancement of education with particular reference to the study of developmental and therapeutic play; including psycho-social care in hospital of children, young people and their families, the promotion of high standards of care through the advancement and improvement of the education and training of Hospital Play Staff, the undertaking of research into the care in hospital and in the community of children, young people and their families and the publication of the useful results.

1987 The first of our annual Hugh Jolly Memorial Lectures took place. Dr Hugh Jolly had introduced Hospital Play Specialists in Charing Cross Hospital in 1965. He was a respected and active advocate for Play in Hospital, encouraging the development of play schemes and supporting professional play staff.

1988 Certificates issued to first graduates of the HPSEB courses.

1990 NAHPS worked as part of the PHLC to produce the landmark document "Quality Management for Children, Play in Hospital" by Christine Hogg.

1991 The first pilot course with BTEC as the awarding body took place at Bolton College.

1992 Discussions initiated by NAHPS with the Department of Health led to the official recognition of Hospital Play Specialists as a distinct staff group in the Health Service.

1992 Hospital Play Staff Examination Board was recognised as an awarding body by the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act.

1994 NAHPS granted charitable status.

1995 The first Play in Hospital Week was held promoting the work of hospital play staff at a local and national level.

1996 First graduates of the joint HPSET/BTEC courses.

2000 NAHPS launch their website during the second Play in Hospital Week.

2003 The Department of Health published the National Service Framework for Children Young People and Maternity Services – Standard for Hospital Services makes reference to the need for play in hospital and the therapeutic purpose of play as part of the child’s care plan. The document recommends that all children staying in hospital have daily access to a play specialist.

2004 BTEC and HPSET introduced a new Level 4 qualification – A Professional Diploma in Specialised Play for Sick Children and Young People, accredited at Level 4 on the National Qualification Framework.

2006 NAHPS commissioned Judy Walker to write Play for Health: Delivering and Auditing Quality in Hospital Play Services. This new audit tool is for play specialists and those who manage play services to evaluate and guide professional development and practice.

2006 NAHPS signed an agreement with the University of Shizuoka, which recognised the importance of international cooperation between the UK and Japan, in establishing an affiliation to promote high quality play services for sick children and an alliance in sharing best practice in research and teaching.

2008 Following extensive consultation, HPSET approved the proposal that the next programme of study should be a Foundation Degree with entry to the professional register at level 5, and that in conjunction with the validating university the pilot programmes would be offered by 2 colleges.

2010 The pilot programmes were validated by Thames Valley University (now West Thames University) to commence in September 2010 at Bolton and Stanmore Colleges.


2012 The first students of the new course Graduated.

The new Foundation Degree Award ‘Healthcare Play Specialism’ is recognised as the requirement for application for professional registration with the Hospital Play Staff Education Trust (HPSET) and a Licence to Practice as a Registered Health Play Specialists. Both the qualification and professional registration together forms the recognised qualification and standard for work in the National Health Service (NHS) and many community healthcare settings.

2012 Peg Belson, Patron of NAHPS dies.