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Pooches to pamper Poole's paediatric patients

caring caninesYounger patients will soon be benefiting from new members of Poole Hospital’s therapy team – canine carers.

The hospital is extending its association with the Dorset-based not-for-profit voluntary group Caring Canines to include the children’s unit. Charity volunteers and their pooches already make regular well-received visits to older patients and those with acquired brain injuries or neurological conditions at the hospital.

After hearing about the difference the dogs made to adult patients, Caroline Fawcett, the unit’s lead play specialist, invited representatives from the group in to see if they could provide the same support to children in hospital.

The dogs, which are all temperament tested, trained, vaccinated and insured, can help ease patients who may be anxious, or who may not be able to verbally communicate, by creating a sense of connection with the dogs sometimes not possible with staff or visitors.

For other patients who may have dogs of their own, the animals can be a welcome reminder of home.

The difference the programme, which meets infection control standards too, can make to patients can be striking, said Caroline.

“Feedback from elsewhere in the hospital has been extremely positive – colleagues who care for patients with serious neurological conditions, for example, have said they have responded particularly well, and in some cases formed a connection with the visiting animal they have been unable to with people.

“I’m really looking forward to the positive and calming impact Caring Canines will make to younger patients, who can be anxious or stressed about being in hospital.”

Caring Canines estimates that more than 12,000 people each month benefit from their work in places including hospitals, residential and nursing homes, schools and hospices.

Caring Canines was founded in 2006 by Sue Dennett and Julie Lankshear.

Sue, whose brings her own dog Sizzle to the hospital once a week, says the impact that the animals have had on patients has been immeasurable.

“The feedback we receive from patients and ward staff is so positive,” she said.

“It’s so rewarding for us and our volunteers to bring these dogs into hospital and to see the immediate effect they have on patients.”

Dominic Watts, charge nurse on one of the wards already benefiting from Caring Canine’s visits, says the dogs can make a dramatic difference.

“Our ward specialises in caring for patients with brain injuries and neurological conditions,” he said. 

“This can sometimes make communication difficult, so the non-verbal communication the dogs make possible is a fantastic thing to offer patients.

“They really respond, and well look forward to days when Caring Canines are coming.”

Caring Canines begin their visits to the children’s unit at Poole Hospital in March.

You can find out more about the group on their website,

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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