Four-legged Jasper is the 'paw-fect' boost for Burnley hospital staff and patients

Jasper brings a big smile to the face of Burnley General Teaching Hospital ward 16 patient, Mary Catlow
Jasper brings a big smile to the face of Burnley General Teaching Hospital ward 16 patient, Mary Catlow

Meet Jasper ...East Lancashire Hospital's latest recruit!

He may not carry a stethoscope or wear a white coat, but he is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of patients when he visits wards at hospitals, including Burnley General Teaching Hospital.

Whether it’s a patient nearing the end of their life, a nurse who’s having a challenging shift or someone feeling particularly woof, Jasper has been enlisted into the hospital’s ranks for one

important job — to make people smile.

“People change when they see him, their faces light up and Jasper has a really positive effect on everyone,” said hospital chaplain David Anderson, who is also Jasper’s owner.

Jasper, who is a cockapoo, completed a 10-week training programme to ensure he was prepared to work within the busy ward environment.

He said: “I’d seen the impact our previous therapy dog had on patients and felt the need to fill that void when she moved to another hospital. I decided we could try training Jasper, he loves to be stroked and getting attention, so it was just a case of training him with a behaviourist so he could pass his assessments.”

Ward 16 manager, Stephanie Roberts, said: “The response we saw from our patients when Jasper visited the ward was amazing. He cheered up patients who were feeling depressed,

made everyone smile and brought joy and laughter onto the ward. He’s pawe-some!”

While a therapy dog visit isn’t appropriate for every patient, the early evidence shows that patients, staff and visitors enjoy the benefit of the human-animal bond when they meet Jasper on the wards and around the hospital.

Speaking about the benefits Jasper can have on the hospital’s morale, David said: “He’s not just here for the patients, he is for the staff too. It’s good for the staff to have a laugh and a

giggle, it brings a smile to their faces and that is the most important thing Jasper can do - make someone smile.”

"Jasper’s received totally positive feedback from patients, families and staff, and not many people pass him in the corridors without stopping to say hello. He’s extremely popular and

I’m being hounded to organise more ward visits.”

Jasper is also doing some exciting therapeutic work with patients affected by strokes, encouraging patients under the supervision of physiotherapists to use their hands and fingers to touch the therapy dog.

Concerns that dogs might pass on infections are addressed with very specific processes and procedures that meet infection control rules in the healthcare environment, making sure

patient and handler clean hands and services with hospital-grade wipes after each contact and ensuring vaccinations are always up-to-date. On his day’s off, Jasper enjoys life just like any other family pet, going on long walks or chewing one of the many toys he has been gifted from his admirers.