SPECIAL sessions are being staged at Airedale Hospital to take the 'fear factor' out of blood tests for young patients.

Maria Barrick, a play specialist at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, is heading up the initiative – aimed at children and teens under-18, and their families.

She discusses with the young people what will happen when they attend for their procedure, and outlines some of the distraction options on offer – ranging from bubbles and toys for the youngest children, to virtual reality headsets and computer games for older patients.

Sessions are being held on a drop-in basis in the play and games room on Ward 17.

The latest take place on Sunday (November 26) and Wednesdays, December 6 and 13, between 3pm and 5pm.

Maria says: "A lot of children find having their blood taken really difficult.

"We hope these sessions will help to prepare them.

"By helping them understand the process better, so they are aware of what's happening and when, we can take some of the fear away.

"It can be difficult too for children with long-term conditions like diabetes who have their blood taken a lot – initially they may be OK with having it done, but then become more aware and averse to it as they get older. The sessions are useful too for children who might only need their blood taking once a year, and forget what to expect.

"Teenagers shouldn't be put off by the 'play' reference in my job title! We’re here for all ages, right up to 18, not just young children. We offer lots of great activities for teenagers and we hope they’ll come along to the sessions and have a look and see what they might want to use on the day of their test or procedure. We’d love them to tell us what they think of our new virtual reality headsets!

"Offering children and teenagers choices gives them a sense of control too – it's good for them to say what they want. It is all led by them."

Supporters of the sessions include Caitlen Watson, whose two-year-old son Tommy has attended.

She says: "They will be great too for my five-year-old, who is autistic and when you attend somewhere like a hospital it can be overwhelming. If he had a bit of a preview beforehand of what’s going to happen he could visualise it and that would really help."