Canine companion cheers up paw-ly patients at GWH

A friendly four-legged visitor to the Children’s Unit at the Great Western Hospital is helping some of Swindon’s youngest patients forget about their illness for an hour or two.

Golden retriever Ted is the latest Pets as Therapy animal to visit the Swindon hospital, with his fortnightly visits effortlessly bringing beaming smiles to the faces of both patients and staff alike .

The lovable pooch, who has been specially trained to visit hospital environments, spends anything up to an hour at a time on the ward, giving the children the chance to play, stroke and have fun in the same way they would with a pet at home.

Sarah Merritt, Divisional Director of Nursing for Paediatrics and Gynaecology, said: “Behind Santa Claus, I think it’s safe to say that Ted is the most popular visitor to the Children’s Unit.

“He’s a really playful character and it’s easy for us to see the difference having him on the ward makes to the children.

“It’s hard not to feel happy around Ted and when patients are smiling, it can lift their mood and have a really positive effect on their overall recovery.”

Ted’s visits also come as a benefit to mums, dads and other guardians on the ward who may be feeling stressed, worried or anxious, as animal interaction is well known to have a calming effect on the people around them.

Despite being in hospital, play remains a critical part of each child’s recovery programme, with Ted often filling the role of playmate while brothers, sisters and other friends are away at home or school.

Claire Parks, Play Specialist, said: “To a poorly child, a hospital can be a scary place. But with play, we can make them feel like children again, help them to understand what’s going on and in some cases distract them from what’s going on.”

Established in the 1980s, Pets as Therapy is a national charity which works with health and social care providers to help people of all ages and with varying types of injury and illness benefit from the company and social interaction of a pet.

For more information and for photos of Ted’s visits to the Children’s Unit, follow Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on Facebook at