Patients and visitors to Derriford Hospital have been receiving a welcome of a different kind from a recent recruit to the Hartor ward team.
Henry, an 11 year-old Golden Retriever, has been visiting patients on the healthcare of the elderly ward to help with their treatment and recovery.
“We were told that Henry is part of the staff on the ward here right away,” said Gerald Pearce, a patient on Hartor. “He helps me with my day and it’s lovely to have him on the ward. He gives us a change, a break up to the day and it makes it something a little bit different than the ordinary ward.”
And the presence of their new-found canine friend hasn’t been lost on the staff either: “Henry’s visits are enjoyable for all the staff too and it is a great boost to morale – it’s real therapy. He provides a calming effect on what can be a very busy ward. We all love having him here” added Teresa Beer, Ward Manager for Hartor.
“It’s quite amazing as we have found that some of our patients who suffer with dementia remember Henry week after week. Sometimes he will go around and sit by a patient’s bed, allowing them to stroke him whilst he sits there happily, and others like to feed him dog biscuits.”
As a registered therapy dog, Henry visits once or twice a week with his owner, Christine Gentle, and has started to make a difference to patients who are often on the ward for long periods of time.
“We have longer stay patients than most wards so the days can become long and monotonous, we have a beautiful dayroom with a television but not all of our patients are able to move away from their beds. Henry comes in after lunch and offers a glimmer of hope and normality to those who are familiar with having animals at home or have grown up with animals. We feel truly honoured to be able to provide such a wonderful experience for our patients,” added Teresa.
Henry’s impact has been further felt alongside the introduction of the new day room on the ward. Sam Woollaston, Physiotherapist at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust also said: “Henry helps with the social interaction of the patients at lunch club in the newly refurbished day room. His presence encourages patients to socialise and talk together, and they really chirp right up when they see Henry. He’s making a very real, positive difference here.”
And asked if Gerald thought Henry’s skills could be utilised on other areas of the hospital: “Why not? I don’t think there are many people that would dislike an animal on the wards. He’s very good for us and he is looked after very well by his owners.”