The Royal College of Nursing has launched the first-ever nationwide protocol for animals in health care.
The protocol will provide an evidence-based best practice criteria so that hospitals and other health settings can introduce animals into the care environment.
By following the RCN’s protocol, services will be able to ensure the safety of patients and healthcare staff as well as the animals and their owners, whilst allowing patients to reap the benefits that interaction with animals can bring.
The project was prompted by an RCN survey last year which found that although the majority of respondents thought animals were hugely beneficial to patients, most nurses said animals were not allowed in their workplace.
Animals improve care.
Research has shown how animals can improve patient care. The RCN survey found that nine out of ten (90%) nurses believe animals can improve the health of patients with depression and other mental health problems, and 60% said the presence of animals could speed patient recovery.
At the launch event, Lyndsey Uglow, a pioneer in animal therapy, will discuss how she and her golden retriever Leo have changed the lives of hundreds of children at Southampton Hospital.
The development of the new protocol was led by RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care, Amanda Cheesley.
Amanda said: “Anyone who’s worked in this area can see the amazing impact animals have on the health of adults and children alike. However, there are so many myths around the dangers of having animals in health care settings that most organisations are too concerned to try it out.
“This protocol will help to dispel these fears by supporting hospitals to include animals in the care they deliver in a safe and professional way. We hope that it will encourage all health services to consider how animals can help their patients and help us to remove the taboo from what is a really remarkable area of care.”