10 February 2017
Patients in A&E at the Royal Free Hospital have been enjoying visits from a very special volunteer.
Rolo, a three-year-old Cavapoo – a cavalier spaniel and poodle cross – is on a mission, along with his owner Shiva Bernheim, to put a smile on the faces of patients and staff. He does his ward rounds in A&E on a Monday lunchtime and also makes time to visit the family and friends’ room on the intensive care unit. Rolo and Shiva then return on Tuesday mornings to visit the children’s ward.
Rolo started visiting A&E at the Royal Free at the beginning of 2017 after Shiva heard about Pets As Therapy (PAT), a national charity that provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, care homes and other venues from volunteers with their own dogs and cats. Staff at the hospital were so impressed by Rolo’s calm and sweet nature that they felt his company would be beneficial for patients who like dogs and feel well enough to enjoy a pat and a chat.
One patient who took an instant shine to Rolo was 100-year-old Arline Firth, who used to work at the BBC on news, education and science programmes before she retired, and was friends with Sir Patrick Moore, with whom she worked on The Sky At Night.
It’s well documented that pets are very good for people’s wellbeing. Rolo’s visits are incredibly popular with patients on all wards. We know it’s a bit unusual bringing him into A&E but the patients love him.
Arline, from St John’s Wood, said: “I’m in here because my shoulder is very painful and I’m having it seen too but it’s a joy to meet Rolo. I’m a big animal lover so this is wonderful for me.”
Shiva said: “Someone came up to me on Hampstead Heath and said Rolo seemed like such a lovely dog and told me about the charity PAT and it all went from there. Rolo loves people, especially children and really seems to enjoy himself on his ward rounds. He’s so gentle and kind and he’s a great distraction if children are having to have blood taken or a canula removed.
“But if I’m honest I think he’s just as popular with the staff as with the patients – they really look forward to his visits.”
Jane Woollard, Head of Nursing for Emergency and Critical Care, who introduced the PAT scheme into A&E, said: “It’s well documented that pets are very good for people’s wellbeing. Rolo’s visits are incredibly popular with patients on all wards. We know it’s a bit unusual bringing him into A&E but the patients love him. We always check first to make sure people would like to see him, and we have had a very positive response.”
All cats and dogs in the PAT scheme are assessed to make sure they have a suitable temperament for hospital visits, and receive the necessary vaccinations and infection treatments. Rolo’s visits to the Royal Free Hospital are planned in liaison with the infection control nurses.