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PATs off to Nellie - our cutest new recruit.

We've issued a big welcome to Nellie - the Cavapoo.

She's our first Pets As Therapy dog (PAT)  and successfully charmed everyone during her first visit to CHFT.

The caramel-coloured cutie wowed staff and patients alike on the Children's Ward.

She's pictured with paediatrician Sal Uka and Sister Fiona Stuttard (in blue) and 3rd Year Student Nurse Alex Newby in our staff photos. 

And Becky McMillen, mother of Brodie, pictured in red T-shirt, said:   "A brilliant idea.  The children's faces lit up when they saw the dog."

We are hoping to expand canine recruits onto our wards and eventually hold a Puppy Party to thank them and their owners who accompany them.

The dogs' owners need to go through our usual volunteers' vetting procedure and the pets also undergo checks. They have to be nine months old and with their owners for at least six months. They also have a medical and a temperament test where they go to a park so their reactions to bikes, shouting, other dogs and strangers can be assessed. Of course, we recognise that dogs might not be everyone's cup of tea, so are conscious of that and take that into consideration for the duration of a visit.

Charlotte Collinson from our Volunteers Office, said: Volunteers already play a vital part in the success of CHFT – often Volunteering for physical or mental health benefits. The introduction of Pets as Therapy is yet another opportunity to engage local people for the good of the Trust and for the individuals physical and mental wellbeing, in line with the NHS Long Term Plan for Social Prescribing”

Her colleague, Anya Macbeth, said: "The Royal College of Nursing actively advocates the introduction of Pets as Therapy. It's no wonder, there were lots of happy faces and it was a welcome break in the normal hospital day for these patients and colleagues. The feedback could not have been better…….a few of the children had pets at home who they missed  - this prompted conversations and interaction – with patients, parents and colleagues.” 

For more information visit

PAT was set up as a charity in1983 and the approved dogs and their owners visit venues such as hospitals, hospices and residential homes. They're new to us as but here are two testimonies from elsewhere in the country.

“Joyce, along with her delightful Pets as Therapy dog Indie, has been visiting patients on the Stroke Unit at the Princess Royal University Hospital for over three years.  They call into the Unit every Wednesday and brighten everyone’s day.  They are a professional, compassionate and dedicated duo and have made an outstanding contribution to the recuperation of extremely ill patients.  Joyce and Indie’s attendance has become a highlight of the week for both patients and staff on the Unit and their tireless service to the Trust is greatly appreciated.”

Princess Royal University Hospital

“For many residents, Esther’s visits are something to look forward to in the week and really do brighten up their day. A member of staff explained that one resident is often reluctant to engage with staff and can be non-communicative, but that when Esther visits she is much happier, chats with staff and other residents and has her mood boosted for several days. The wife of another resident described how “Esther’s visits bring a smile to everyone’s face. She really is a Super-dog!”

Dementia Friendly Communities – Kent County Council