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Zac and Izabel are supporting mental health patients to recover!

Posted on the 12th June 2018

A volunteer from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and her two fury friends have been lifting the spirits of patients at an inpatient mental health unit in Ormskirk.

Zac and Izabel, the Trust’s golden retriever therapy dogs have been helping people with mental health problems to increase their social activity, reduce stress and feel happier in order to support their recovery. The dogs are regular visitors to patients at the Scarisbrick Unit at Ormskirk District and General Hospital as part of their occupational therapy session held on a Thursday morning.

The dogs help the patients to find purpose and motivation by taking part in activities, providing comfort and encouraging communication and engagement. Patients have the opportunity to play, groom and stroke the dogs and activities include walking around the unit and also using paint and the dogs paws to create pieces of artwork. 

The project is the brainchild of Gemma Conway, a healthcare support worker for the Trust who came up with the idea after seeing a dog therapy charity at an event she went to. She got in touch with the charity in order to arrange for dogs to visit the unit, and now almost seven years later the facility now has its own Trust therapy dogs and volunteer Anne.

Gemma Conway from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“The dog therapy session has been running at the Scarisbrick Unit for almost seven years and is a huge success with our patients, we hold the session every Thursday and it really is one of the highlights of the week. Just bringing the dogs on to the ward, can change the whole dynamic, we have found that they can often diffuse difficult situations and also get patients engaging in ways that they may not have done before.

“The dogs really do brighten up the day and improve the wellbeing of our patients and also the staff who are working here too. Having the provision to provide this therapeutic activity has brought everyone together and has also broken down the wall that is sometimes there between staff and patients. Often it can trigger a reminder of a pet that a patient may have at home, this really does bring them good memories and a reason to get well and return home. The initiative really is of such benefit to everyone here and we look forward to supporting other teams to roll this out across the organisation!”

The Scarisbrick Inpatient Unit (SIPU) is a 21 bedded unit based within the premises of Ormskirk District General Hospital. The unit provides care and treatment for adult service users who are showing signs and symptoms of acute functional mental illness. Service users are from the population of Lancashire and surrounding areas. For more information about the Scarisbrick Unit please visit