Patients at the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) at Stoke Mandeville Hospital are set to benefit from a pioneering new scheme which will see Banbury-trained dogs used to aid their rehabilitation.
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Banbury charity Dogs for Good have joined forces for a pilot project which will see how specially-trained dogs can help patients in their recovery.
The new treatment practice, Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI), is a well-established practice in many parts of the world, but is less advanced in the UK.
A series of tasks such as throwing a ball, tugging a toy, and grooming are included in carefully planned sessions designed to help the patient progress towards their goals and support rehabilitation.
One such patient is Charlotte Simcock, 26, who suffered a spinal stroke in October of last year which has left her with limited movement from the chest down.
She is keen to regain better movement in her arms to enable her to feed herself. She is also hoping to increase her confidence going out into the community in her wheel chair.
Charlotte, who worked as a veterinary nurse before her illness,said: “I have a dog at home who I am really missing while I am in hospital. I can’t wait to get started on this and am so pleased I was chosen to be part of the trial.
“I am sure this will really help me improve my mobility and will also help me to gain the confidence I need to get out and about once again.”
The pilot will last for eight weeks and will consist of weekly one-hour sessions and involve a trained therapy dog Danny and specialist handler Iris Smolkovic working alongside an occupational therapist Alicia Hing and Ruth Peachment.
Ruth, occupational therapy clinical specialist at the NSIC, said: “This is a very exciting pilot that we have been planning for some time with Dogs for Good.
“The potential to help and motivate patients is huge. If the pilot is successful we are hoping to extend the scheme to help children too.”
Hayley Stimpson, AAI services development adviser at Dogs for Good, said: “We are passionate about what can happen when we bring people and dogs together. We are keen to see how effective animal assisted intervention techniques will be in helping patients to achieve their rehabilitation goals.”