Youngsters being treated at Ysbyty Gwynedd have been distracted from their aches and pain thanks to an innovative creative play scheme.

Artist Karen Ball is working with sick children on interactive arts and craft ideas designed to keep youngsters occupied during their hospital stay.

The bedside scheme operates thanks to a partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) and Gwynedd Council’s community arts scheme.

Karen spent a week working with young patients in Ysbyty Gwynedd’s children’s ward, with a return visit planned for the Easter break.

She said: “It really is a wonderful and worthwhile scheme. We made papier mâché dolls and animals, which we then painted. We also made some colourful wall hangings and produced glass paintings as well as small trinket boxes.

“I think children and their mums and dads really appreciate what we are doing and respond positively to the sessions.

“I normally work from the ward’s play room but I also go along to children, who are too poorly to leave their beds, to see if they want to try one of the activities on their bed table.

“No one is forced to take part and some children aren’t always up to it. However, those that are seem to get a great deal from the sessions and enjoy being creative,” added Karen, from Rhiwlas, Bangor.

Ysbyty Gwynedd children’s ward family support worker Liz Taylor said: “I run activities with children when I can, but to have dedicated artists come in and work with children is lovely. It makes the day go so much quicker for children, who really don’t want to lie in bed bored or just watching TV.

“These creative play sessions do take a child’s mind off their medical issues, they are a real distraction and helps stop children worrying. In fact I would go as far as to say the sessions aid recovery.

“It’s nice that children have something to take home, something they have themselves made and something to show from their hospital stay.”

She added: “Patients on the children’s ward come here as their first port of call. They are assessed here – some are treated and discharged while others may move onto a specialist hospital.”

Among those taking part in the fun was five-year-old Ruby McKinley of Glan Conwy, who was admitted to Ysbyty Gwynedd with suspected appendicitis. Her mum Mandy said the creative play scheme was a big help in keeping her daughter occupied.

She said: “Children can get really bored and of course they don’t really understand why they are in hospital. Ruby painted a Peppa Pig picture, made a window hanging and a little treasure box.

“It’s been great that Karen has come to Ruby’s bed as she isn’t allowed out of bed yet. It’s really helped cheer Ruby up and keep her occupied. It’s a fantastic scheme and more than I expected.”

Nesta Roberts of Pwllheli was rushed to Ysbyty Gwynedd after she suffered a severe asthma attack while enjoying a film at the cinema with her mum, Gayle.

The five-year-old was initially too poorly to take part in the creative play scheme but joined in after being treated.

Gayle said: “Nesta has inhalers and we are used to her asthma attacks, which are unfortunately becoming more frequent, but it’s still always scary to be honest.

“The first day in hospital Nesta wasn’t up to doing anything – she was hooked up to machines and on oxygen. But she’s much better now and wanted to take part.

“It’s great because we can come to the play room and, as well as doing something creative, we are also socialising with other children and parents. It’s stopped Nesta becoming bored or just watching TV all day, which I don’t really like her doing.”

Gayle added: “Giving children some creative activities to take part in also means parents get a break, or we can join in. It’s lovely having the chance to do something together.

“I fully support the scheme and believe it’s wonderful and very worthwhile.”

Also taking in the play sessions was three-year-old Joseff Hughes of Rhosterhwfa, Anglesey, who was confined to bed while being treated for a partially collapsed lung and chest infection.

His dad Brian, a civil servant, said: “The creative play scheme is a brilliant idea and Joseff has done some colouring and art work. It’s great they came to his bed as he can’t get to the play room.

“We are getting to be regulars here as Joseff suffered a similar occurrence to what he has now on New Year’s Eve. We were here for three days on that occasion. My wife Leanne is at home with our other son Morgan, who is just four months.”

He added: “The treatment Joseff receives from Ysbyty Gwynedd is second to none. The staff are amazing and nothing is too much trouble –  when like us, you rely on it you realise just how good it is.”

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is the largest health organisation in Wales, employing around 16,100 staff. It provides a full range of primary, community, mental health and acute hospital services for a population of around 676,000 people across North Wales as well as some parts of mid Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire.

It runs Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan and Wrexham Maelor Hospital as well as 18 other acute and community hospitals and a network of over 90 health centres, clinics, community health team bases and mental health units.  The Health Board also coordinates the work of 115 GP practices and NHS services provided by North Wales dentists, opticians and pharmacies.

BCUHB’s new chief executive is Gary Doherty, currently Chief Executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and previously Deputy Chief Executive of Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.