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I am a retired Health Play Specialist with 34 years’ NHS experience, having practiced in two District General Hospitals and two Children’s Hospitals. I have worked as a play specialist, a senior play specialist, a play co-ordinator, play manager/service manager, service manager and general manager of a Children’s Hospital.

I am a former member and Chair of NAHPS executive, member of HPSET Board of Trustees and Chair of HPSET for the last six years.

Currently, I am the Apprentice Assessor and Coach, tutoring on the practice modules on the Health Play Specialist Foundation Degree course at UC Leeds.

I am passionate about play for sick children, for the recognition for the role of Health Play Specialists and the value of the services we provide to children and families. I will continue to work tirelessly for registrants to develop and maintain high standards of practice, while working to ensure the safety of the profession and the public.

TRACY SUTHERLAND, Chief Registration Officer

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I first joined the NHS as a nursery nurse in 1987, qualifying as a Play Specialist in 1991. Over the years I have worked within many clinical specialties and have extensive experience in areas such as cardiology, burns and plastic surgery, oncology, bone marrow transplant, infectious diseases, haematology, intensive care, radiology, dermatology, rheumatology and ambulatory services (including outpatients and the emergency department). I have set up my own clinics for complex referrals and visited children and families in their own homes. I have held play management roles in three large teaching hospitals and have been proactively involved at strategic and operational levels to ensure there is a positive climate for children, young adults and their families within the healthcare setting.

I joined HPSET in 2018 as part of the trailblazer group for apprenticeships working with other experienced play staff to set up the future training for play specialists. I officially joined the HPSET Board of Trustees in January 2019 and have been part of the reregistration group from 2020.

I have always had a passion for play and as an advanced practitioner I enjoy promoting the value of play and teaching and educating others on the importance of play in health care settings.


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An experienced leader in education, training and SEND, with a passion for enabling personal progress and wellbeing. My coaching and mentoring of staff and trainees in schools and clinical settings has been a key part of supporting their development and career pathways. HPSET’s Chief Registration Officer for the past five years, I continue to work with others to maintain the highest standards of practice in the profession and continue to determine the best support for registrants’ profile submissions.


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My professional background is as a Registered General Nurse and, prior to my retirement, I was a Registered General Nurse and a Specialist Nurse in Intensive Care and ECMO (Extra Corporal Membrane Oxygenation). In my last few years as a nurse as well as maintaining my clinical practice I was the Clinical Governance Lead for the Children’s Hospital, in Leicester.

In the post of Clinical Governance lead, I worked closely with Tina Clegg, current chair of HPSET. When I was coming up for retirement, Tina approached me to join the HPSET Board to take on the responsibility of clinical governance, which also included the introduction of GDPR, data protection.

Prior to retirement I undertook my last nursing profile to maintain my nursing qualifications. Once on the board I became involved in several areas one of which was the update of the Registered HPS profile. Working with Tina Clegg I approached the Nursing and Midwifery Council to gain permission to adapt their Profile for use with the Registered HPS. This was agreed and now we are using an adapted version of the Nursing Profile for you all. You may ask why we use the new process; the answer is that a number you are either single practitioners, or are managed by the Nursing Team who will understand the details of the profile. However, I will say that the Profile details of the Registered HPS and Nurses are different in some respects. Since the introduction of the new form of Profile, I have been involved annually in reviewing your profiles.


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Following performance arts and then health and fitness training, Steph’s early career in London was freelancing within the community/local authority sector delivering regular sessions to children and adults as well as developing and delivering larger scale community projects. As her interest in working with children and young people developed, full time roles with the YMCA and voluntary organisations followed: managing programmes, as senior play worker and serving on management committees.

During this time Steph helped local voluntary action organisations deliver training and develop policies shared with voluntary play projects. This work also included advocating for children’s right to access play. Steph became aware of the role of the hospital play specialist and volunteered for a year at GOSH to gain a greater understanding of the profession.
Following relocation outside London, Steph worked for an organisation providing NVQ assessment and training for play and youth workers (levels 2&3) and developing and piloting the City and Guilds Progression Award in Playwork.

In 2005, Steph was appointed as a Play Specialist within the NHS and was able to qualify in post. In 2007 she joined the play team at Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust working on the surgical/medical wards, the day surgery/treatment wards and the oncology day unit before taking up the post of Therapeutic Play Manager.

Taking early retirement in 2022, Steph is currently working for Leeds City College as an assessor for the HPS Apprenticeships and was invited to join HPSET’s Registration Committee.


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Catherine has been a qualified, registered HPS since 2008, working in a number of roles, including acute inpatient, outpatient and radiology settings, within an inner city teaching hospital. As well as a varied clinical role, Catherine has worked as part of the management team as well as organized and overseen the mentoring of many HPS students.

Catherine has been on the HPSET board since 2016 and joined the Registration Committee in 2021. She really enjoys learning from the profiles she assesses and getting an insight into the day-to-day clinical practice from her colleagues around the country. More recently Catherine has teamed up with NESCOT College to support their students and provide mentor training to those wishing to become mentors. In 2023, Catherine began her own independent practice.


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Julia has been HPSET’s registration coordinator since 2013, contracted to provide admin services to the Registration Standards Committee. She is responsible for processing the indexation of HPS students and apprentices, for registering FdA graduates, and for organizing the re-registration of current and lapsed registrants. Julia maintains the public register of Health Play Specialists and is the first point of contact for all enquiries from registrants and prospective HPS trainees.

After a first career as a social worker and family therapist, Julia re-trained as a Play Specialist in 2000, working first in a District General Hospital before assuming senior roles in two central London hospitals. In 2003, Julia started teaching on the Hospital Play course at Stanmore College, where she held the position of Course Leader from 2004-2006. After moving to Scotland, Julia continued practising as a Health Play Specialist, before stepping aside from clinical work in 2013 to focus on research and writing for publication. Together with Alison Tonkin of Stanmore College, Julia has co-written and co-edited three books on play for health and wellbeing across the lifespan. Their fourth book, Play and Health in Childhood: A Rights-based Approach, will be published by Routledge in September 2023.

Meet the Team