World Children's Day at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust
22 November 2019

World Children's Day at Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust

Lucy with her Shih Tzu cross Molly at Hilltop Nursery in Brighton

"I knew that Molly was a special dog, and I wanted to share her with other people." – Lucy, PAT volunteer

Wednesday 20 November marked World Children’s Day, UNICEF’s global day of action for children, and we celebrated in style at SCFT with a series of Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog visits across our sites. The visits were organised by Debs Wilson, Professional Lead for Children’s Physiotherapy, who was inspired by PAT Dog Coordinator Noel when they met at our Community and Members’ Open Day in September. 

“I wanted a chance to celebrate everything we do, and bring everyone together,” Debs explained. “I thought the visits could enhance staff wellbeing, as well as being a special treat for the children. World Children’s Day is for ALL children, and those with disabilities and health conditions can often feel isolated and left out.” 

With support from SCFT’s Children’s Therapy Services and the Professional Leadership team, Debs coordinated PAT dog visits at Westhampnett CDC in Chichester, Nightingale Primary Care Centre in Haywards Heath, Hilltop Children’s Unit in Horsham, Crawley and Worthing Hospital Child Development Centres, and Hilltop Nursery at Brighton General Hospital. 

All the human and canine PAT volunteers had enormous fun visiting the services, and feedback from the children and their families was overwhelmingly positive and inspiring. Debs herself caught up with Noel in Hilltop Children’s Unit, where she was visiting with Pipper, her Golden Retriever. “Attending appointments can often be so challenging for children and their parents,” Debs observed. “One little girl had profound cerebral palsy, and only vocalises when she’s really engaged, but she started to vocalise with Pipper.” 

Several of our teams are now interested in requesting PAT dog visits of their own, including Butterfly Nursery in Hove, Responsive Services, Adult Therapy Services, and Children’s Speech and Language Therapists working out of our Trust-wide Health Centres.

Brian the Cockapoo with Claire and Gail at Crawley CDC

“Brian was adorable and everyone really enjoyed it - the therapists just as much as the kids!” – Claire Grant, Children’s Physiotherapist

Pipper the Golden Retriever, who visited Hilltop Children’s Unit in Horsham

“I only hope that the other volunteers enjoyed themselves as much as we did! I’ll keep in touch, but in the meantime here is a picture of a very tired Pipper once we reached home.” – Noel, PAT Dog Coordinator