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Health Play Specialist recognised with charity award

Health Play Specialist Vicki Belton has been recognised as the runner up in the Mentor of the Year category at this year’s Starlight’s Health Play Awards, which mark the start of National Play in Hospital Week (10 to 14 October).

Run by the UK’s leading health play charity, Starlight, the Awards recognise the dedication, ingenuity and resilience of play specialists and other health professionals who are changing the experience of hospital treatment for seriously ill children.

Heath play specialists work directly with children in hospitals, hospices and other health settings, empowering them to understand more about their treatment, develop coping techniques, distract them during procedures and support their mental health whilst they’re undergoing treatment. Mentors such as Vicki help develop the next generation of health play specialists.

As a health play specialist in the Children’s Outpatients Gastro and Day Wards at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Vicki has 20 years’ experience working in play. Currently working in clinics with outpatients, Vicki calms, distracts and prepares children for procedures like scans.

Explaining what her new award means to her, Vicki said: “It’s so amazing to be nominated, especially as a mentor because it means you’re doing a good job at influencing future health play specialists. Having a mentee to teach gives you the ‘yes I do know this’ feeling and gives you a real boost for the importance of your role.  it’s a really positive thing to do and ignites the fire again.”

Vicki’s mentee Rebecca said: “Vicki is everything a mentor needs to be. She’s proactive, dedicated, trustworthy and competent. She always listens and supports me with any worries or questions I have about my degree and work placement. Starting my degree with no hospital experience at all, Vicki was a great support with helping me cope. Without her I don’t think I would be as confident in the setting as I am now.”

Cathy Gilman, Chief Executive of Starlight, said: “It’s people like Vicki who are our real life superheroes. They make children’s stays in hospital the best they can be. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust are clearly very lucky to have Vicki as she works hard to inspire those around her whilst also helping the children who come into her care.”

Vicki’s award, The Mentor of the Year award, is a new category for 2022 which recognises registered mentors from one of the four approved health play specialist training institutions in the UK.

To support the improvement of play provision in children’s healthcare, Starlight and NHS England have established a joint Taskforce on Children’s Play in Healthcare, with the health play specialist professional bodies and a range of sector specialists to develop the relevant programmes of work.

For more information visit www.starlight.org.uk/playweek.