LEGO remains the “ultimate Christmas present”, a hospital play pro has said.

The comments come as poorly children prepare to spend Christmas Day on Great Western Hospital’s children’s unit.

Claire Parks, the ward’s senior play coordinator, will be the one helping the sick youngsters write their letters to Santa.

She said: “It’s a busy time of the year. You have all the usual stresses of the ward, with potentially some very poorly patients.

“But we do try to make sure we have some nice things going on as well.”

Those “nice things” include a pop-up panto, decorations, writing letters to Santa, Christmas games and the annual toy run visit from burly bike club the Pinkertons.

Claire, 43, said of the bikers’ visit: “For me, it’s the start of Christmas - when those bikers come up with all those gifts. I love it.”

With 23 years of experience working as a play specialist on the NHS, Claire has a unique insight into what’s top of children’s Christmas lists.

“The ultimate present is still Lego,” she said. “A lot of the children have been talking about Lego Star Wars sets.”

In October, charity Fairy Bricks gave GWH £2,400-worth of brand-new Lego sets - a donation praised by hospital play staff as “wonderful”.

Claire said: “The children are just loving it. Every day we put boxes out for them to build with. They take a picture of it on their mum’s phone, then we break it up and the next child plays with it.

“They don’t mind that. They understand that we can’t let them take it all home.”

Traditional games remain popular at the hospital.

Claire says children are firm fans of card game Dobble. Similar to snap, the multi-player game sees kids competing to find matching symbols out of a number drawn on each card.

For Claire and her team, the goal is to “ensure children have access to normal play”.

But her team also prepare youngsters for painful operations and procedures - making sure they know what will happen when they go under the knife.

Claire said of her job’s most rewarding moments: "It’s the children and the parents’ comments at the end of the day and just the sincerity and them thanking you.

“You can drive home exhausted, but you’ve got that smile on your face knowing you’ve helped make a little bit of a difference. It’s very rewarding.”

While doctors and nurses will try to make sure that as many of the ward's 22 youngsters are able to get home for December 25, there are always some left eating their Christmas dinner in their hospital bed.

Claire said: “Over the last few years the ward has been really busy over Christmas, so it’s just about trying to make it as nice as we can.

"Obviously, children rather be at home, but hopefully if they really have got to be here we can try and make it as nice as we can.

“We know it will be a busy winter this year. We’ve already had full wards, with bronchitis, chest infections and the wheezes already starting.”

On Christmas Day, the ward’s poorly children will open their presents in the morning, spend time with their families and eat their Christmas dinner on the ward.

Claire won’t be there to celebrate it with them. Her last working day is Christmas Eve.

It will be a busy shift. Claire smiled: “We need to let Santa know who’s in, so children get their gifts on Christmas morning.”