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Pets on prescription

DOGS AND other pets may become available on prescription under a new nationwide scheme being launched by the NHS, which will see dogs become available on prescription to treat depression and obesity.

GPs in Lewisham, southeast London will give grants of £1,000 to pay for a dog, food and vet bills.
The innovative scheme, which has been launched primarily in the London borough, is designed to encourage the new pet owners to take more exercise, as well to exploit the stress relieving effect that dogs have on their owners.

The plans have been backed by health professionals. Simon Williams, director of policy at the patients association said: "I welcome the innovation within the NHS."

Concerns were raised however, that the cost of the scheme could be put to better use. "I would need convincing that this a prudent way to look after the budget. I am sure the NHS could put this money to better use" continued Mr Williams.

Patients have benefited for many years now from therapeutic visits from dogs, and the charity Pets as Therapy has over 3,000 dogs trained to visit the sick and elderly as a means of encouraging and assisting recovery.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania has revealed that heart attack patients that own a dog enjoy an accelerated convalescence due to the indirect health benefits of owning a dog. It is a widely held regard that the physical interaction between human and dog lowers blood pressure.

The grants will be managed by each patient's individual case worker.