Young cancer patients are avoiding general anaesthetic at Sheffield Children’s Hospital thanks to play specialists.
Research published this month shows that an increasing number of children are having radiotherapy at Weston Park Hospital without needing general anaesthetic - because of play specialists preparing them for what the treatment entails beforehand.
Patients have to lie still in a room on their own while their treatment is administered and in the past many children were given general anaesthetic as ‘standard practice’ but between 2012 and 2013, 48 out of 49 children in Sheffield managed their treatment without anaesthetic, including nine aged five and under.
Charlotte Cooper, a registered Health Play Specialist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “Children need radiotherapy every day for several weeks.
“With general anaesthetic, visits to hospital can take most of the day, the child has to starve before each visit and recovery takes longer. This is hugely disruptive to the child and their family. There are also additional risks each time they have anaesthetic.
“Using play to help children stay awake for their treatment takes away all these problems, enabling the child to cope with their treatment awake and retain an element of control. Supporting children in this way improves the child’s quality of life, reduces stress and anxiety for the whole family and also allows the family to retain a normal routine. It makes a huge difference to these children and their families”
Play specialists help children understand what the experience will be like and work with them to develop coping strategies so that the child can tolerate their treatment awake.