CANCER-struck children are being told they have to book an appointment if they want to play with toys at a Scottish hospital ward.
The young patients, at a specialised ward at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow, have had their playtime rationed by hospital bosses, after one of their dedicated ‘play specialists’ was moved out of their unit.
Hospital bosses have said they hope to “rationalise” the play service by allowing the specialists to work throughout the hospital, but furious parents have condemned the move, arguing access to toys to make life more “bearable” for their cancer-hit kids.
The vital play service was set up to make the lives of children more tolerable during the draining side-effects of difficult cancer treatments.
But the toys, including those bought by parents, have been locked up in cupboards and drawers by staff at the hospital’s Scheillion ward, a specialist unit where children are treated for cancer and leukaemia.
When children want to play with the toys they have to book an appointment with a play specialist, meaning their playtime is restricted.
One angry mum, to Ben, 15, who is undergoing treatment for Leukaemia, said: “The medical treatment is excellent but the facilities are poor.
“All the toys are locked in the cupboards and drawers and there are only a few older toys lying about the playroom. If you want access to the locked ones then you have to appeal for a play leader and you only get one if your children is in complete isolation.”
Cancer charity CLIC Sargent provides the unit with one part-time play specialist and another who is in a pool for the rest of the hospital to use.
Lucy, from Balmaha, added: “The health board may say that the unit has play leaders but they are in such short supply that they are only really available to parents whose children are isolated in individual rooms, not the others.
“I understand the need to limit cross-infection for children whose immune systems are compromised by chemo. But these young patients are going through a terrible experience and need toys more than ever to make their lives more bearable.
“It is terrifying and depressing for mother to have to cope when their child has cancer and wrong for the kids to be separated from the many toys which have been brought by the ward.
“Until recently the playroom was a wonderful escape for mums and kids but not now.
“There is also little for teenagers like Ben and they do need a chill-out room where they can relax and be themselves.”
One mum added: “I feel like a prisoner in my room and there is little to do with my son in the playroom. It makes his cancer seem much harder to bear.
Another mum said if she won the Lottery she would get play specialists back in the unit.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “The play service at Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill (RHSC) benefits from registered play specialists supported by play leaders. The number of staff in play service at RHSC has not been reduced.
“However, previously not all ward areas had access to the play service and as part of a redesign process we have put in place a new system which provides equal access to the service for children across all wards.
“The Scheillion Unit continues to have dedicated play staff, and has addition access to the play service on a referral basis.“In line with our infection control policy and to prevent loss or damage toys are put out every morning and locked away in the evening however if any child or family member requires access to toys out with this time the nursing staff will provide additional toys for them.
“The new arrangements are being monitored to ensure all young people continue to have the opportunity to benefit from play while in hospital.