A stay in hospital, whether overnight or long term, can be scary and upsetting for children away from loved ones. Some children will visit the hospital as outpatients for treatments such as dialysis or day surgery procedures. Others, such as those with illnesses like cancer or leukaemia, can spend weeks or even months in hospital. The clinical and often serious nature of the environment can cause a great deal of anxiety and bewilderment. In addition, a hospital stay means they are removed from their families, friends and school, sometimes for significant periods of time, meaning that they miss out on opportunities for play and social interaction.
The Giggle Doctor programme improves children’s experience of hospital, reduces stress and anxiety, increases opportunities for play and improves wellbeing. It is not always about laughter, sometimes the focus of a visit might be on music, magic or storytelling. At other times a few bubbles is what is needed or perhaps just a balloon at the foot of the bed. Regardless, the Giggle Doctors will visit every child who wants to be visited.
The Theodora Children’s Charity visits three hospices in the South East; Demelza House Hospice in Eltham, Haven House Hospice in Woodford Green, and Richard House Hospice in Beckton, London.
The Giggle Doctors make monthly visits to each hospice and will usually see on average 8 children at each visit. Often they will have parents or other family members with them who will also benefit from the visit, as well as the hospice staff. The Giggle Doctors increase the opportunities for children to play and engage in fun activities. Every child that wishes to be visited will be visited and receive their own tailor-made visit based on what the child wants. Children in hospices face so many challenges. They should not have to face boredom and a lack of opportunities for play on top of this. Our Giggle Doctors make sure that they don't have to. They brighten up the hospice with their huge smiles and colourful coats full of balloons and magic tricks.