NAHPS Board Members

Penelope Hart-Spencer

Penelope is the Chair of NAHPS and graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006 with a 2:1 classification in BA (Hons) Health and Social care, with a special interest in therapeutic play for children. Following graduation, Penelope coordinated a therapeutic play project in the Primary Education sector and was funded by the Children’s Workforce Development Council to write a paper relating to the impact of therapeutic play and present her findings at national conference.

In 2008, Penelope joined the team at The Young Oncology Unit at The Christie NHS Trust as the Play Specialist and Paediatric Support Coordinator. She is responsible for ensuring paediatric oncology patients who require radiotherapy, endocrine and inpatient radioiodine treatments are well supported. During her career, Penelope has also been an Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University on the Social Change Degree programme.

Penelope is qualified and registered Health Play Specialist and also possesses a Master of Science Degree in Comtemporary Health Care (Cancer care for Teenagers and Young Adults), Post Graduate Certificate and Post Graduate Diploma in Cancer Care for Teenagers and Young Adults; all gained at Coventry University. Penelope sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) for the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) and is also involved in the Northern Play Health Networking Branch. Penelope is a reviewer for CCLG (Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group) publications and also supports the work of The Brain Tumour Charity.

Penelope is a specialist in preparing children and young people for radiotherapy and imaging and presents at national and international conferences about her work. She has work published with the RCNi and she encourages all Health Play Specialists to evidence their work and publish to promote best practice within the profession.

Norma Jun-Tai

Norma is the Vice-Chair of NAHPS and has had a long and fulfilling career working with children, having first trained as a nursery nurse then as a nurse for children and adults with learning disabilities. Norma qualified as a Hospital Play Specialist in 1984 and during this time became a lecturer practitioner teaching on various early childhood studies programmes and the hospital play specialist course at Nescot College. Combining teaching with the practitioner role of play co-ordinator in a large paediatric unit has given her the privilege of training many play specialists whilst providing therapeutic play for sick children and young people.

Although no longer a practising Health Play Specialist, she has maintained her registration as a member of the National Association Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC) and is honoured to have served as chair during her time on the executive team. Norma endeavours to support the profession through board membership of the Healthcare Play Specialist Examination Trust (HPSET) and Action for Sick Children.

Irene O’Donnell

Irene is the Play Services Manager at University College London Hospitals leading one of the largest play specialist teams in the UK. She has worked as a qualified play specialist for over fourteen years in several London teaching hospitals. Irene has been involved in the teaching of trainee play specialists since 2004 and regularly lectures on the Play Specialist Foundation Degree course.

Irene is an integral member of the National Executive Committee representing the profession throughout the UK and is also a Trustee on the board of the Healthcare Play Staff Examination Trust (HPSET) where she sits on the re-registration panel which re-registers Health Play Specialists. In her previous role as Chair of NAHPS, Irene worked in collaboration with other organizations such as NHS England, The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) at strategic level in order to represent the voice of children and young people. This ensured children’s/young people’s emotional and developmental needs were prioritized alongside their physical needs during their healthcare experience(s).

Irene has worked in a variety of clinical roles including oncology, PICU, paediatric A&E, haematology and bone marrow transplantation. Her area of clinical expertise lies within haematology and bone marrow transplantation supporting children and young people through treatment.

Irene strives to keep play in healthcare high on the agenda and an integral part of the child and young person’s hospital experience. Irene is responsible for planning future events for NAHPS.

Joanne Cross

Jo qualified as a Hospital Play Specialist in 2001, from Bristol College. She joined the National Association Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC) in 2005, working on the website and publications committee. In 2010 she became chair of NAHPS a position she occupied until 2013.

Jo works as a Play Specialist at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth and specialises in work with children with additional needs and bereavement.

Jo also works as a bereavement counsellor for Jeremiahs Journey, a charity in her locality, dedicated to helping children cope with loss.

Ishbel Proctor

Ishbel is Play Services Co-ordinator at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC) in Edinburgh. She qualified as a Play Specialist in 2000 from Stevensons College Edinburgh. She is the Scottish representative on the National Association of Health Play Specialist (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC), and is also on the Future Events subcommittee. Since joining NAHPS, she has organised an annual Spring Study Day for play staff from around the UK covering diverse topics. She has many years experience of working with children, young people and their families, mostly in the RHSC.

In her role of Play Services Co-ordinator Ishbel manages a team of 17 Play Specialists and Play Assistants. She maintains her clinical practice expertise by working in the Oncology/Haematology Ward one day per week as well as regularly covering all other areas in the hospital and also dealing with referrals from members of the MDT.

Emma Eardley

Emma, having completed her nursery nurse training in 1993 spent nearly 2 years in a private day nursery caring for well children under the age of 5 years. In 1994 she joined the staff at New Cross Hospital Wolverhampton as Play Leader within the paediatric unit. In 1997 whilst still at New Cross she completed the Hospital Play Specialism course. After gaining experience as a Play Specialist she went on to complete City and Guilds 7307 (teaching) stages 1 and 2 in 2001. Emma left New Cross Hospital in October 2004 to join the Specialist Play team at Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a Senior Play Specialist and where she continues to work.

It was during her time at New Cross that she was co-opted onto the National Health Play Specialist (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC) prior to becoming a full member; her role on the NEC was in publications until 2013 when she was voted Vice Chair of NAHPS.

At Birmingham Children’s Hospital Emma has overall responsibility for the teaching programme and student placements within the Specialist Play Services Department. She has gained wide experience in Birmingham including Oncology, Stem Cell Transplantation, Haematology, Retinoblastoma, Neurosurgery, Rehabilitation, Craniofacial Surgery, General Medicine and Surgery and was recently involved in the introduction of CAMHS@BCH Single Point of Access (SPA) within the Trust.

Emma is also involved in Health Professional Forum Meetings, Palliative/End of Life care Meetings, Patient Participation and Involvement Meetings.

In June 2010 Emma completed Human Tissue Authority (HTA) training and has been actively involved in HTA assessment work. In March 2011 she completed The National Cancer Peer Review Reviewer Training Programme and as a result of that training has peer reviewed along with other professional’s paediatric cancer services within England.

In 2010 Emma joined the Healthcare Play Specialist Examination Trust (HPSET) board of trustees where she represents National Association Health Play Specialist (NAHPS), and participates in the re-registration process of Healthcare Play Specialists.

More recently Emma has joined the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Ethics Forum and over time hopes to widen her knowledge and experience in this complex area.

Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte has worked at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust since 1999 and has been qualified and registered since training as a Play Specialist in Leicester in 2002. Charlotte is a valuable member of the haematology and oncology department in Sheffield and along with her colleagues developed the play service for children within haematology and oncology. Charlotte also worked in PICU/HDU introducing play programmes for children on long-term ventilation. Charlotte is currently responsible for children with solid tumours supporting them throughout their treatment and preparing them for radiotherapy and imaging through play based interventions and individualised support.

Charlotte is an active member of the NEC and has taken on the role of journal assistant. She is keen to publish evidence-based articles advocating the benefits of Health Play Specialist preparation for radiotherapy and imaging not only representing good patient experience and improving safety but also evaluating the benefits on NHS resources such as staffing, equipment and costs by avoiding sedation or anaesthesia. Charlotte presents this work at a local and national level and is keen to encourage and equip other centres to implement this service.

Sian Cullimore

Sian Cullimore began working as a support worker for the Warwickshire Community Children’s Nursing team caring for children/ young people with life threatening/ life limiting illnesses within their own homes and schools in 2001. Whilst doing so, she was inspired to train as a Health Play Specialist and trained in 2010. After qualifying as a Play Specialist, Sian and 2 colleagues developed the Specialised Play team which has flourished into a vital and successful component of the WCCNT. Sian is a mentor for the HPS students, give talks to various trainee medical students and presents at conferences. Sian is joint chairperson for play within the West Midlands Palliative Care network and is a Branch Officer on the NEC within NAHPS.

Cath Hubbuck

Cath Hubbuck is a registered health play specialist. She studied for a degree in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Bristol before qualifying as a health play specialist in 2001. She worked for three years at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol on a children’s unit specialising in Neurology and Burns, Plastics and trauma care. She then moved to Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and worked in the Outpatients department for six years, working extensively with children with Cystic Fibrosis, asthma and allergies, eczema and other chronic skin conditions. Here she also regularly supported children as they underwent radioisotope scans, ultrasound scans, x-rays, skin biopsies and blood tests.

In 2009, Cath took a career break to concentrate on raising a family, but has continued to practice independently as a health play specialist and has maintained her registration with HPSET. She has written extensively on the role and work of Health Play Specialists and in 2009 published book on the subject. She has taught on the Health Play Specialist Training course at Stanmore College and has also spoken at an international level. She most recently worked as a play specialist in a voluntary capacity at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children for three years.

Cath is an enthusiastic and committed health play specialist with a passion for raising awareness of the breadth and depth of the HPS role and the impact play services can have on children and young people in healthcare settings. Cath believes that play is a powerful and effective force in the lives of sick children and works to encourage the recognition of its utmost importance within multidisciplinary healthcare teams.

Sandra Jones

Sandra qualified and worked as a Health Play Specialist in 2000 and since 2008 is employed by the Hywel Dda University Health Board as a Play Service Manager. Sandra manages play staff on the Puffin Unit (Paediatric Ambulatory Care Unit) at Withybush General Hospital in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Cilgerran Ward at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire and Angharad Ward at Bronglais General Hospital in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion.

Working closely with managers over the three sites, Sandra has an excellent working relationship as part of a multidisciplinary and paediatric team. She was fortunate to undertake mentorship for the Foundation Degree in Health Play Specialism and is looking forward to mentoring new students.

Sandra holds regular teaching sessions for medical students and childcare students in local schools and colleges.
In 2015 Sandra was accepted onto the National Association of Health Play Specialists (NAHPS) National Executive Committee (NEC).

Sue Haywood

Sue qualified as a Health Play Specialist in 2000 at Leicester College. She joined the National Association of Health Play Specialists National Executive Committee in 2016.

Sue works as Senior Play Specialist at the Leicester university hospital. She has worked as part of the play team for ten years. Specialising working with children admitted to children’s intensive care, and bereavement.

Sue is also an active peer support worker supporting the second victim service in the hospital. Sue previously worked for ten years on a neonatal unit offering play and development for babies and promoted family centred care.

Jenny Oliver

Jenny started her play career as a Play Assistant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). It was during her time at GOSH that she completed her Play Specialism training at Stanmore College, qualifying in 2006. Once qualified, she moved onto to work at The Royal London Hospital primarily working in the paediatric A&E Department. While working in A&E, she developed an interest in teaching and training a wide range of professionals, promoting play throughout various ambulatory services such as MRI, imaging and day case, developing sedation programmes and striving to implement play within trauma calls as well as developing bereavement services.

In 2016 Jenny began working at University College London Hospital as the Deputy Play Services Manager, supporting the management and development of one of the largest Play Services in the UK. She hopes to bring her experience of various clinical roles to help the team to continue to strive towards excellence and excel in the delivery of play services.

Jenny endeavours to promote the value of play within healthcare and the importance of play being integral in providing high quality of care being delivered to children and young people.

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