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Donkey helps buck up hospice patients

Genevieve Grey, 80, with Charlie the donkey (Jon Parker Lee/PA)

A donkey is helping to bring some “animal magic” to end-of-life care by visiting a hospice.

Charlie has given joy to countless children, ferrying them up and down the sand on the beach at Scarborough.

Now in his own retirement, the 10-year-old is helping those at the end of life through “assistive therapy” at St Ann’s Hospice in Cheadle, Cheshire.

Charlie met staff, carers, patients and their loved ones in the courtyard of the hospice and nuzzled up to bedroom windows so bed-bound patients could meet him.

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Adele Crompton, an equine coach and co-ordinator at The Donkey Sanctuary, where Charlie now lives, said: “Donkeys have a natural emotional intelligence and react positively to human contact.

“There’s something very pure about seeing an animal in front of you. There’s no judgment and it takes a lot of people back to their childhood.”

Health chiefs in Manchester are increasing focus on a personalised approach to end-of-life care as part of plans to bring more personal choice in where and how people receive palliative care.

End-of-life care was highlighted recently by former MP Tessa Jowell’s speech to the House of Lords, just weeks before she died, telling peers that, “in the end, what gives life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close”.

Denise Greenhalgh meets Charlie the donkey, helping with ‘assistive therapy’ for patients at St Ann’s Hospice in Cheadle, Cheshire Credit: Jon Parker Lee/PA

Day care patient Genevieve Grey, 80, who met Charlie, said: “I’ve always loved animals. If I was able to I’d have him, I’d want him to come to live with me and I’d build a shed or shelter for him.”

The visit was arranged by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC) – a partnership between Manchester NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and Manchester City Council.

Eamonn O’Neal, chief executive of St Ann’s, said: “Everyone loves a donkey. There is something unique about these wonderful animals and the effect they have on people.

“It was a pleasure to welcome Charlie and Adele to the hospice, and our patients, staff and volunteers loved meeting them.

“Charlie was a real hit with everyone, and his visit is proof that no two days are ever the same at St Ann’s.”

To find out about St Ann’s Hospice or make a donation visit www.sah.org.uk/donate-now.