Should Therapy Dogs Be Available to Patients on The NHS?

Seeing a dog-tor on the NHS or engaging in animal therapy could help ease lockdown loneliness.

In the wake of rising lockdown loneliness, a medical law firm is questioning whether alternative, more holistic treatments could be the answer – perhaps in puppy form.

Jennifer Smith, Litigation Executive, suggests that engaging with animals offers multiple health and social benefits.

“Pets are a great way to enhance social interaction. When out walking a dog, you find people stop and speak to you more often than if walking by yourself.”

“There is also the exercise that comes with owning pets. Taking the dog for a walk or cleaning out the fish tank or cage gets you away from the computer screen and helps improve your mood if you have had a stressful day at work.”

As NHS costs continue to rise to meet the increasing demands on mental health services, Smith also comments that regular check-ups with a dog-tor may help.

Should Therapy Dogs Be Available to Patients on The NHS? 1

“Therapy dogs may be a more cost-effective means than perhaps more invasive means of therapy, and the patient may be more willing to engage in such treatment,” explains Jennifer Smith, Litigation Executive at Patient Claim Line.

“If the person is an animal lover, there may be more willingness to attend treatment appointments which again will help save money. Missed GP appointments cost the NHS £216million a year (source: NHS England).”

The average salary of a therapist in the UK is £33,043 per annum according to Payscale.com. According to the PDSA, dogs typically cost between £6,500 and £17,000 over a lifetime, and up to £105 a month. Based on these costs, twenty-six dogs could be supplied for the same cost of one therapist.

Of course, improving access to mental health resources is not as simple as prescribing dogs to patients. There are many variants of different mental health issues ranging from mild anxiety to more disabling psychosis conditions which will require their own specialist treatment plans.

However, Patient Claim Line hopes their comments will inspire investigation into complementary and alternative therapy medicine, which is currently limited on the NHS (source: NHS England). The firm also hopes to highlight the importance of patients having access to the right treatment for them.

7.3 million people are on antidepressants in the UK – that’s 17% of the adult population. (source: Gov.UK) Antidepressants are associated with withdrawal. Whilst medication may be the right treatment path for some patients, it’s crucial for long-term health that patients are not prescribed medication that they do not need, that the long-term side-effects of medication is properly explained to them and that other treatment options are explored.

According to a 2019 poll of 12,000 people by mental health charity Mind, just 21 percent of patients that were taking psychiatric pills were definitely told about potential side-effects.

“If you think you’ve been recommended the wrong treatment or diagnosis on the NHS, then you could complain to the GP or Trust,” explains Jennifer. “But this will not result in any compensation for pain, suffering and other financial losses that you may have incurred as a result of your wrong treatment or misdiagnosis.

There is also the option of instructing solicitors to investigate if the incorrect treatment and/or diagnosis is serious enough to be negligent. Medical negligence solicitors are skilled in legal proceedings and will quickly be able to let you know if you have a claim.”

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