Patients at the Royal Free Hospital have been visited by some very special guests.

As part of dementia awareness week, patients and staff got up close to some very unusual creatures, including Chica, a tarantula from Mexico, Kermit, a white tree frog from Australia,  a corn snake called Bert and Alfred the tortoise.

Patients with dementia and other elderly patients on the same ward were able to touch the animals – but only if they wanted to! A rabbit and a guinea pig were some of the furrier creatures available for petting.

Danielle Wilde, dementia lead for the Royal Free London, said: “There is no prevention, no treatment and no cure for dementia but there is so much we can do to help people with the condition. We can all take time to focus on the person and here at the Free we are determined to give them some incredible experiences. It’s the little things that can make a big difference – so whether that’s bringing musicians to our patients or helping our patients to visit a hair salón on the ward or simply finding out more about what that person used to do, it’s all part of our person-centred care.”

Mary Healy, 79, from Hampstead, said: “My dog died a while ago and I’m too old to have another one but the animals I’ve seen and held today have made me feel so calm and comfortable.”

The animals and their handlers were from Wild Science, which offers animal education and animal therapy.