Dianne Wootten

Dianne Wootten –Senior Health Play Specialist – Childrens Community Nurse’s Team West Hertfordshire NHS Trust

Dianne has worked with children and families for 25 years in a variety of roles, including school and nursery settings, social care teams, family centres and substance recovery.

The nature of her roles has required a trauma informed and person-centred approach designed to empower and enable. Dianne is passionate about the voice of the patient being heard, something which can be difficult when a person feels vulnerable or is suffering or recovering from trauma.

As a qualified Health Play Specialist, she has a lot of fun creating and delivering bespoke sessions and interventions which make every patient’s healthcare journey easier. As well as being fun these sessions are created to promote communication, explore, and understand feelings and help the patient overcome barriers and enable body autonomy – regardless of how old (or young) they are.

Her long-term vision is to facilitate more play within healthcare worldwide, as I have experienced first hand the positive impact it has on the emotional wellbeing of the patient, their family and all practitioners working with the patient.

There is currently a distinct shortage of play professionals and resources within the NHS, and Dianne believes this is due to misunderstandings and misconceptions about what Play in Healthcare is and how by investing in the right training and resources we can ensure its not ‘just play’ but a meaningful, effective, and fiscally prudent intervention that is rightly recognised as every child’s right.

Presentation at Skin health and wound care for children study day

The role of the Health Play Specialist in successful patient outcomes


Working alongside nurses in the community delivering invasive care, including palliative, end of life and wound care, Dianne noticed patterns of behaviours that made it difficult and sometimes traumatic to deliver the care needed, impacting the patient, their families and the professionals providing the care.

These behaviours resonated with her, as she recognised similar behaviours and responses from previous roles whereby patients often presented as angry and were labelled as ‘difficult’ or ‘naughty’, when in fact they were confused, scared, and hurting. For her it was a no-brainer, if we understood the reason behind the confusion and fear and empowered the patient to find strategies to manage this, they would be less likely to get angry and behave ‘naughtily’ or ‘difficultly’.

By undertaking the HPS degree and adopting a trauma informed approach to her work she has been able to work collaboratively with patients and professionals to create bespoke patient led procedural plans which have improved and continue to transform the way we work with children and young people to deliver the care they need in the way they want it.

Dianne continues to evolve in the way she works and is passionate about sharing the skills learnt from each patient with every patient and professional she has worked with..

Dianne believes play is the universal language of every patient across the ages, and is the key to communicating no matter the age, gender, nationality, social denomination or stage of development of the patient we are caring for and the ability to utilise this skill is something we all have but cannot always access especially at times of stress.

She works holistically, involving everyone around the patient keeping the patient pivotal and uses a range of expert and skilled play to create a two way communication, provide therapeutic play opportunities and empower the patient to understand and manage diagnosis and treatments including discomfort, fear and pain.