17 Feb 2017

Animal Magic



Our lovely new website will help you get past the obstacles to having pets on your ward and give you the compelling evidence base for the benefits of pets for people with mental illness.

Our Top Ten Pet Points are:

  1. Pets are definitely allowed onto wards! The Care Quality Commission and the Department of Health have confirmed this, with the simple and important requirement that this fits in with Trust policy and with patients’ needs and care plans.
  2. The evidence base for the therapeutic benefits of contact with animals is huge and compelling.
  3. There are several excellent Trust policies on animals, listed in the resources section below eg N E Lincs Policy for Pets on Inpatient Mental Health Suites
  4. The State Hospital in Scotland, a high secure unit, is blessed with a Pet Therapy Centre. Brilliantly they’ve produced a beautiful, inspiring and practical guide to the therapeutic use of pets in mental health hospitals – Animals as Therapy in Mental Health.
  5. Contact with animals can be on the ward (with resident or visiting pets), off the ward but within the hospital (usually with animals in the garden or a mini-farm) or off site (eg patients helping out at local rescue centres or farms.)
  6. Pets can be as low-key and low-cost as a goldfish, or a major feature of ward life with a cat or dog.  Small furry things (hamsters, guinea pigs) are a great compromise and patients, staff and visitors get much pleasure from caring for and playing with them.
  7. There are practical ways round the fact that some patients definitely won’t want contact with animals because of allergies, phobias, religious beliefs and other factors. The important thing is to plan for this – eg by having a pet shared between several wards so that if one ward can’t house the pet for a period, another one can.
  8. Although actual, real-life furry/finny/funny pets are the best, if that isn’t possible then there are all sorts of imaginative ways of including animals in ward life, from photos to soft toys. (And we’d welcome your feedback about challenges you face with patients having contact with animals.)
  9. Conversely, animals can be used as a structured part of therapy, through Animal Assisted Therapy.
  10. For many of us, our pets are an integral part of our family so it really helps when this is recognised in care plans, home leave, visits and everyday conversation.


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You might be wondering – what difference does Star Wards actually make to mental health wards? It’s a question we continuously ask ourselves, to make sure that we are having a positive impact. Well, we have over 800 wards signed up to receive our resources and, in the past, we have had Star Wards independently evaluated. A micro-summary of what our users have said is that wards who tried Star Wards ideas had:

This is not about us, it is about people like you. These improvements are down to your hard work. And you can check our newsletters for wards doing amazing things right now. So we are told we do help you make a difference – and we want to get better and be here to help you in the future. So, join up, join in and let us know your wonderful ideas – and if you can donate to us or fundraise for us, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can donate on the website or discuss fundraising by e-mailing here. Thank you for all you do.