Patients on the Nell Gwynne stroke unit are benefiting from therapy of a different kind. Every Wednesday Humphrey, the standard long-haired Dachshund, spends the morning in the day room where patients can visit him for a therapy session.
Humphrey belongs to Chelsea and Westminster volunteer Amanda Pitt-Brown, who has been a patient on Nell Gwynne herself. Amanda joined the Pets As Therapy (PAT) charity, who organise animals to visit hospitals, nursing homes and special needs schools, among others.
Amanda decided to register Humphrey as there is such a long waiting list for PAT animals. To become a PAT dog Humphrey's temperament and personality had to be tested. Testing included seeing how Humphrey coped with loud noises, objects being thrown near him and even having his tail pulled. Humphrey's visits are run through the Therapies department.
Therapy assistant Kristy Monkhouse had always known about PAT and on joining the stroke rehab team thought it would be especially suited to those recovering from a stroke.
Kristy says: "Animals don't judge and give affection unconditionally. Humphrey can help with speech and language rehab generating conversation and automatic responses, as well as physical rehab through stroking and brushing him.
"One of the most important benefits is the emotional wellbeing Humphrey brings our patients, as they can become depressed following a stroke and animals can help.
"Humphrey picks up on the emotion of our patients."
Patients complete different exercises with Humphrey depending on their needs.
For example practicing saying 'sit' and 'come here' or clipping on his lead for dexterity.
Kristy concluded: "We are very lucky to have Amanda, it has worked out perfectly with Humphrey."
Photo: Humphrey with a patient and Kristy Monkhouse (Therapy Assistant)