Volunteers' Week takes place 1-7 June every year. It's a chance to celebrate and say thank you for the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK.
Did you know, not all of our volunteers are human? Through the Pets As Therapy (PAT) charity, canine volunteers make a much needed difference through their visits to some of our inpatient wards. These visits enable patients to have contact with temperament tested and super friendly pets who, along with their volunteer owners, are keen to bring a little happiness to our patients’ lives.
Their visits benefit not just the patients and their carers while they are on the ward, but staff as well. Staff are always keen to come out and spend time with the dogs as well, which helps to reduce stress in what can often be a challenging working environment.
PAT is a nationwide charity that provides services to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools, and more. There are currently approximately 5,000 PAT dogs and 100 PAT cats active across the UK.
Feedback from patients and their carers is extremely positive, as they state it is often the highlight of their day, or it has helped lift their mood. Their visits are especially significant to those patients who are missing, or have had to give up, their own pets.
The owners of our PAT volunteers come from all walks of life; however they all have the same wish - to share the joy that their dogs bring to them, with our patients.
Ruby the retriever visits Thorndon ward at Brentwood Community Hospital with her owner Val Sample. Val says: "Truth be told, Ruby takes me. It may be that she remembers the tickles and treats but she just adores sitting next to the patients being loved. People become really happy and chatty when a dog is nudging them for a fuss. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is for me to see their spirits lift, to leave them smiling and with a lovely little memory. I’m sure Ruby gets it too. That’s why she likes going back. She does a great job!"
Goodmayes Hospital wards have also been fortunate to receive volunteer visits from five different registered PAT volunteer and dog partnerships - ranging from a Miniature Schnauzer named Elvis (below, left), to Millie (below, centre) the Newfoundland who is such a gentle giant, to Coco (below, centre) and Ruby (below left).
Two of our canine volunteers, Coco and Izzy, have made such an impact they have received the Trust’s Make A Difference badges for their work.
While the PAT visits have come to a halt during COVID-19, we look forward to seeing their furry faces again soon!
For more information about the PAT charity, please visit their website at https://petsastherapy.org/.