Volunteer paw patrol brings smiles to rehab patients at Southmead Hospital

September 29 2017

A GROUP of therapy dogs visited patients in late August at North Bristol NHS Trust’s Elgar House building based at Southmead Hospital.

a GROUP of therapy dogs visited patients in late August at North Bristol NHS Trust’s Elgar House building based at Southmead Hospital.

Elgar House supports patients to make the transition from hospital to home. Its focus is on rehabilitation, reablement and recovery.

Staff held an Open Day event to showcase the work carried out at Elgar House to support patients during their stay. The event included mindful meditation with North Bristol NHS Trust’s clinical psychology team, ballroom dancing with the Trust’s volunteer Move Maker choir, music, Tai Chi and a dose of canine fur-apy.

Alfie, Flash, Fern, Otis, Maia and Molly make up North Bristol NHS Trust’s volunteer paw patrol, with Golden Retriever Millie soon to join the pack. Alongside their owners, the therapy dogs visit wards at Southmead Hospital and Elgar to brighten up patients’ day and help aid recovery.

Voluntary services manager at North Bristol NHS Trust, Becca Aylett, said: “I am a great dog lover and it was always my ambition to get therapy dogs into Southmead Hospital. When I spoke to ward staff about this, the response was very positive and I knew there was a need here. 

“I contacted the Pets As Therapy charity and found out how people with suitable dogs could be checked and registered by the charity. If a dog is suitable and the owner is keen for them to volunteer here as a pair, I then recruit the human volunteer. They all have a DBS, references and attend induction training.”

Most of the dogs and their owners come to the site once a week for around two hours. They mainly visit wards for elderly and neurosurgery patients.

Flash the Whippet - who was the Trust’s first therapy dog - particularly enjoys visiting the stroke and neurosurgery wards. Flash is very sensitive and can provide comfort in end of life situations.

Therapy dogs work particularly well with dementia patients as they can stimulate memories of other dogs patients previously knew or owned. The dogs can also help provide a distraction to patients who may be bored, anxious or distressed.

Clinical tutor at North Bristol NHS Trust, Mandy Freeman said: “Understanding the impact the therapy dogs have on our patient wellbeing is difficult to comprehend, until you see the response from the patients. 

“From their verbal interaction to just a hand on their fur, is of enormous value to the physical and psychological aspects of health.”

Today the therapy dogs brought smiles to faces of patients and relatives at Elgar House, and were joined by Pets As Therapy area coordinator Dr Rosemary Geller and her canine companion Jasper the Sheltie. 

Dr Rosemary Geller commented: "I am delighted that a team of seven PAT dogs are bringing joy and comfort to so many at Southmead Hospital. Our charity is fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers in the Bristol area."