At the Sick Kids Friends Foundation we believe that nothing should get in the way of being a child. For the 100,000-plus babies, children and young people who our work supports, this means that no physical or mental health issue should prevent them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers.
Being in hospital, either for a short visit to the emergency department or having a life-long relationship due to a long-term condition, brings many challenges.
Hospitals are large, bustling buildings filled with departments with long, confusing names. For children and young people, arrival at hospital can be daunting and stressful. If a child is feeling this way then it’s often the case that the parent or carer accompanying them feels this way too. The Sick Kids Friends Foundation works alongside NHS Lothian at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children to provide distraction, facilities and enhancements to reduce anxiety levels and take children’s minds off their treatments.
In the last year we’ve brought more than 30 organisations from across Edinburgh into the hospital to bring fun and distraction to those in outpatients and on wards.
National Museums Scotland has brought exhibitions into the wards, with the chance to hold a mammoth tooth. Dancebase is working with the physiotherapy team to bring exercise to children in an engaging way. Storytelling by groups such as Flotsam and Jetsam, Readathon and Edinburgh Dungeon brings playrooms to life, allowing families to spend time together away from the bedside. Clown doctors and musicians connect with children for whom other activities may not be possible, encouraging them to be confident, take part and have fun.
Edinburgh’s Kings Theatre is renowned for its annual panto and Panto Presents brings the season’s pantomime to hospital so that children don’t miss out.
Panto Presents appeals to a range of ages and encourages children to actively learn and engage through creative workshops, delivered by professional artists and performers.
Even the simple activities offered from our Craft Cart and Mobile Library help to reduce boredom and isolation. Creations made in hospital chart a child’s progress towards recovery and hang proudly on the walls during their stay.
By bringing projects like these into the hospital, as well as other healthcare settings, mental health and wellbeing improves. Children are not missing out culturally; they are being distracted from their environment making them more relaxed, which often aids a faster recovery. They are more likely to have a positive hospital experience making it less daunting for repeat visits.
The best result is when we hear that children look forward to their next hospital appointment. It is said laughter is the best medicine but at SKFF we say art, activity, dance, music, fun, singing, play and creativity are equally good.
Roslyn Neely is chief executive of Sick Kids Friends Foundation