Four-legged friends helping boost spirits at North Tyneside hospitals

A partnership aimed at combatting loneliness with a little four-legged help has been extended to hospital patients.

Friday, 7th June 2019, 8:00 am
Linda Gray and Ollie visit patient Angela Atkinson to launch Northumbria Healthcares partnership with Wag and Company in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside with Diane Morton from the charity and matrons Kim Minnis and Gillian Messenger.

Last summer, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust teamed up with Wag and Company North East Friendship Dogs so volunteers and their dogs could visit older dog lovers in their own homes.

Following positive feedback, patients on hospital wards across North Tyneside and Northumberland can also receive a visit from a canine companion.

The partnership, supported by the trust’s Bright Northumbria charity, is to help foster social interaction among patients and improve their experiences of being in hospital.

Gillian Messenger, matron, said: “We’re delighted to be extending our partnership with Wag and Company to benefit patients in our hospitals.

“We fully understand that being in hospital can be a lonely time for our patients. For patients like this, especially for the dog lovers among them, having a visit from a furry friend can really brighten up their day and give them a much-needed boost.

“In addition, having social interaction with the volunteer can really lift patients’ spirits and can help them to feel better quicker.”

Diane Morton, founding director of Wag and Company, said: “We have been really pleased by the success of our partnership in the community and the positive impact it is having on people’s lives.”

She added: “It’s well documented that loneliness and social isolation can have a severely detrimental effect on people’s health and there is no better cure than our special friends with two and four legs.

“Having these visits to look forward to has made all the difference to those people already referred by the trust and I can’t wait to see our teams on the wards.”

Linda Gray and Ollie are among dozens of Visiting Wag Teams at the charity and took part in the launch. Linda routinely looks after Ollie, a cavalier King Charles spaniel, while his owner Kim Minnis works as a matron at the trust.

“Ollie is such a lovely-natured dog and he’s really friendly,” said Linda.

“He adores meeting people and I so do I so we’re ideal for this role.

“Seeing the boost it gives to patients is hugely rewarding – it’s almost immediate and very real. I’m delighted to be able to play my part, with Ollie of course, and am very much looking forward to visiting patients in hospital.”

The dogs taking part in the scheme have been assessed as suitable to go into hospitals and the strictest infection control practices will be adhered to.

For more about volunteering with Wag and Company visit