Helping young people build a ‘big picture’ of their future care through play - Barts Charity
Three young adults sit around a white table playing the board game called Bridge Game

Helping young people build a ‘big picture’ of their future care through play

We have funded a new board game, available in Barts Health hospitals, that aims to improve the experience of young people transitioning out of paediatric into adult care services. 

  • Date: January 31, 2024

For many young people in long-term paediatric care, the prospect of moving away from a team of doctors, nurses and therapists they have known for many years can be daunting. Often, planning happens too late, leaving patients and their families unprepared about what to expect. But, when young people are involved in planning, they can build a better picture of what comes next and feel more confident about their future care.  

The power of play 

Board games have a valuable role in engaging young people with important topics, and can make information more accessible, easy to understand and implement. 

Bridge Game – developed with our funding by Neil Fletcher, Roald Dahl Clinical Nurse Specialist for young adults at Barts Health – is a physical and online game designed to raise awareness around the move from adolescent to adult care services, starting between ages 11 and 13.

The game explores key aspects in this transition and equips young people, their families and carers with the information they need to consider as they take these next steps – all through play. 

Players navigate three sets of questions that range from serious topics to light-hearted general knowledge questions. Players are encouraged to consider how different areas might impact them and their ability to cope. For example, players are asked to think about situations they may encounter in their lives, such as getting public transport on their own. In another example, players are asked to consider where they would go for help for emotional issues. These serious questions are designed to generate discussion and encourage young people to be inquisitive about important topics. 

The general knowledge questions are designed to ensure the game isn’t too clinically focussed. Often young people say there is ‘more to me than my condition’ and these add an element of fun that keep play light-hearted.    

Bridge Game

Board games remain popular

In a poll with the Barts Health Youth Empowerment Squad (YES) – a group of young people ages 11-25 from across Barts Health who meet monthly to discuss issues young people face within hospital – 94% of respondents said they enjoyed board games, with 67% saying they preferred to play them in person. 

Nandi and Ayanna are 21-year-old twins and part of the YES forum. Nandi was hospitalised and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November 2016, moving to adult care services in 2021. After the service transition Nandi helped to test Bridge Game, playing it with her sister Ayanna. 

“It’s a great way of explaining the concept of transitioning to adult services. Playing the game together would have been a good way to educate my sister, Ayanna, on what it means to transition, and the processes I was going through. I’d definitely recommend it to young patients to prepare them and make transitioning to adult services a less daunting concept and experience.”

Empowering young people to take control of their health needs

Interventions like Bridge Game could help to start important conversations earlier than they currently are. Giving young people and their support network the chance – and time – to consider their future care needs, in the context of their individual health condition, can be empowering.

“Healthcare transition pathways need planning and should be individualised to meet the needs of young people. In the NHS, we need to begin having these conversations by the age of 13 at the latest. Doing this empowers young people and their families to take control of their health condition and health needs. However, sometimes these conversations may seem unnerving and scary. The board game introduces an element of fun offering a safe space for young people to explore these important discussions.”
Neil Fletcher, Roald Dahl Clinical Nurse Specialist for young adults at Barts Health

Bridge Game has been used by The Royal London Children’s Hospital Play Team who have been positive about the impact on young people. One of the team mentioned that, when they had played the game with a patient, they realised that they didn’t fully understand what medication they were taking. The game prompted them to find out more. 

Four of the physical board games are now available at the Barts Health Knowledge and Library hubs, with one available at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, The Royal London Hospital, Newham Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital, alongside a customised online portal for use by staff.  

Bridge Game has been developed with Focus Games, leading experts in game-based learning in healthcare. Future plans for Bridge Game will see it go into commercial production.