AN APPEAL has launched for more four-legged friends to cheer up staff and patients at Northumbria Healthcare.

Wag & Company specialises in dog-befriending services for dog lovers in their own homes, and in care or in hospitals to combat loneliness and isolation.

Its partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust now supports patients and staff. The charity is searching for volunteers with dogs to support its services.

Hexham Courant: Staff member with Wag & Co volunteer's dog Staff member with Wag & Co volunteer's dog (Image: Wag & Company)

The trust, which runs hospitals and community services in Northumberland and North Tyneside, launched its project with the charity in 2018, dubbing it the Doggies on Prescription service – initially to provide canine companionship to older people.

This developed to include visits at Hexham General Hospital, before Covid-19 lockdowns interrupted the scheme’s growth.

READ MORE: Friendship dog charity appeals for new volunteers

Hexham Courant: Patient with Wag and Company dogPatient with Wag and Company dog (Image: Wag and Company)

Ward visits now take place across Northumbria Healthcare sites.

These include Blyth Community Hospital, Hexham General Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital, and the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital among others.

There are around 30 Wag & Company home placements for Northumbria patients, as part of more than 150 across the Northeast. There are many more on the waiting list, which is why the charity is looking for new volunteers for one-to-one and care home visiting.

Hexham Courant: Wag and company volunteer's dog with patientWag and company volunteer's dog with patient (Image: Wag and Company)

Diane Morton, CEO and chair of Wag and Company, said: “Our partnership with Northumbria Healthcare is a really special one and it’s fantastic how friendship dog Whitley has been ‘adopted’ as the trust’s dog, visiting staff on a regular basis.

“We are very grateful for the support of the trust’s Bright charity too, but demand is huge and we currently have 212 care and medical placements on our waiting list.

“Recruiting new, and retaining existing, volunteers is an ongoing challenge, which is why I would really encourage anyone interested in making a real difference to people’s lives by providing a friendship dog to get in touch."

Brenda Longstaff, head of the Bright charity, added: “The impact of loneliness and isolation on someone’s health and wellbeing is widely recognised, so we are keen supporters of our ongoing partnership with Wag and Company.

“Our role is to fund things that the NHS does not but which support a better experience for our patients and staff. The visits by Whitley and other friendship dogs are a perfect example of how something a little bit different can have a huge positive impact.”