Hospitals hold pet therapy days to thank staff after 'challenging year'

Dexter wellbeing dog

Dexter became a wellbeing dog after being kicked out of sniffer-dog training for being too friendly - Credit: Sally Patterson

Romford and Ilford doctors and nurses had the opportunity to meet police horses and a wellbeing dog as thanks for their hard work over the past year. 

As part of Thank You Week organised by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), Queen’s and King George hospital staff were invited to pet horses Verdun and Ulls Water, and wellbeing dog Dexter. 

Organisers from the trust’s wellbeing team Amelia Darling and Katie Winstanley explained the pet therapy was provided for free by the Metropolitan Police’s East Area Basic Command Unit (BCU). 

Queen's hospital Wellbeing Day 1

Speech and language therapists Olly Sawyer, Sophie Whitehead, Sarah McCann, Grace Jepson and student Julie Fong enjoyed meeting the police horses - Credit: Sally Patterson

Katie told the Recorder: “It’s good for your mind and soul, and gives you the opportunity to destress and get out into the fresh air.” 

She said feedback from the event had been positive. 

police horse at Queen's Hospital

The wellbeing event allowed staff to have a break and enjoy the fresh air - Credit: Sally Patterson

Sarah McCann is part of the hospital’s speech and language therapist team, who have spent the past year helping Covid patients with eating, swallowing and communication.

“I think it’s so important to look after wellbeing and to have days like this, and for us to be able to just decompress and get together as a team," she said. 

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Colleague Sophie Whitehead said: “It has been a challenging year, but we’re lucky we’re a very close-knit team and have been able to support each other.” 

Therapist Grace Jepson added: “It’s not what you expect when you go into speech and language therapy, we’ve been doing things that we never imagined."

Director of the medical workforce hub Gemma Shipley thought the day symbolised the end of the hospital’s intense period. 

She said: “It’s also pulling staff together, who have been working hard but now is a chance to enjoy."

Alexia Young, who runs the nursing workforce hub, added: “It’s light-hearted and taking you out of the four walls we’ve seen a lot of in the past 12 months."

 PC Debbie Hines

PC Debbie Hines stressed the importance of speaking about mental health - Credit: Sally Patterson

Handing out cups and snacks, east area blue light champion PC Debbie Hines explained the police wanted to “give back” and thank the hospital staff for their hard work. 

The policewoman added: “Today has gone really well, and we’ve always worked really well together and want them to know we’re here. 

“It’s so important to talk about mental health.” 

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