UK nurses are calling for animals to be incorporated into patient recovery programmes on a more regular basis.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) carried out a survey of its members, which found that 90 per cent of nurses believe more patients should be able to interact with dogs and other animals in hospital and while recovering at home in order to boost their wellbeing.
In total, 98 per cent of respondents said that when they had been involved in such initiatives in the past, spending time in the company of an animal such as a dog, cat, pony or chipmunk had boosted patients' recovery.
More than three-quarters (80 per cent) of nurses said they believed access to animals could help to improve the communication problems faced by patients with autism or who had suffered a stroke.
Meanwhile, 82 per cent of those questioned said that dogs were particularly effective in helping to improve patients' physical activity levels, giving them a reason to get out and about following a spell in hospital.
What's more, over half (60 per cent) of nurses reported that the mere presence of an animal in their home had appeared to help speed up a patient's recovery in the past, further highlighting the health and wellbeing benefits that interaction with a pet or a loaned furry friend can have for people suffering from certain conditions.
Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care at the RCN, commented: "The RCN is calling for better, more consistent access to animals for all patients who can benefit, as the evidence is clear that as well as bringing joyful moments to people when they are unwell, the clinical benefits are tangible.
"Nurses have told us of patients with reduced anxiety, better interaction and a whole reason to live - and we should listen to these experiences."
Written by James Puckle
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