Health Play Specialists are a group of professionals who specialize in working with children and young people when they access healthcare services, in hospitals, hospices, and in the community. They are called Play Specialists because play is the medium by which they build relationships with young children and intervene to help them negotiate a hospital stay or visit, or treatment procedure.

You can find out more about the role of the HPS here.


The Foundation Degree is a pre-requisite for registration as a Health Play Specialist in the UK, regardless of previous qualifications or experience. It enables those who want to work in this field to acquire and develop the necessary knowledge and skills to work with children, young people and their families in a healthcare context.

The course is a 2-year, day-release course linking theory and practice by combining academic study with work experience. Each college delivers the course slightly differently, but it typically involves a blend of college attendance and distance learning alongside a practice placement.

  • GCSE Maths and English grade A-C (or equivalent) OR Level 2 or above in Literacy and Numeracy.
  • Minimum of a full and relevant Level 3 qualification in childcare or a related field.
  • Minimum of two years’ employment working with children, after gaining the Level 3 qualification.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Evidence of continuous professional development.
  • Evidence of current or recent, regular, relevant employment in the sector.
  • Identification of a registered play specialist who agrees to act as a work-based mentor. (See below)
  • Commitment to negotiate and complete a 200-hour placement each year, if not already employed in a hospital.

Academic essays, literature reviews, written reports, folder of evidence and exercises though the virtual learning environment. Assessment of work-based competences.


The Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism may be accessed by those already employed in the NHS through the Higher Apprenticeship program offered by some of the colleges. Apprentices study alongside other students but are required to undertake an additional end-point assessment. They are also required to undertake 20% ‘off the job’ training hours and regular assessments with an apprentice assessor to monitor and map progress.


An essential component of the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism is the practice placement. All students need to complete 200 hours of work experience in a healthcare setting during each year of the course, under the supervision of a HPSET-registered mentor. Placement hours are agreed between student and mentor and may be undertaken as a regular day each week, or a number of longer blocks, or a combination of the two.

The student is responsible for identifying a suitable placement by researching opportunities in their local area, or within a commutable distance from home. Where this proves difficult, the college may be able to signpost to potential placement opportunities.


Practice placements must be supervised by a registered Health Play Specialist with a minimum of two years’ experience in the role. They will have completed, or be prepared to undertake, specific mentor training provided by HPSET.

The mentor meets regularly with the student and facilitates their workplace training. They are responsible for assessing the student’s workplace competences.


The Foundation Degree in Healthcare Play Specialism is the only route to professional registration as a Health Play Specialist in the UK. Students who successfully complete the course become eligible to join the public register of Health Play Specialists and to use the job title ‘Registered HPS’.

Whilst registration is not currently mandatory, it is regarded as essential by almost all NHS employers. Professional registration offers the only guarantee that the play specialist has the appropriate qualification, undertakes an audited program of Continuous Professional Development, adheres to a Code of Professional Conduct and works to nationally agreed professional standards.

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