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GPs urged to review 'no dogs' policies

GPs are being advised by a medical defence body to review their practices’ no-dogs policies, in order to recognise the role played by assistance dogs.

The MDU said that equality and discrimination laws mean that adjustments should be made, within reason, to ensure that patients who need assistance dogs are able to access treatment facilities.

While most assistance dogs support with visuals and hearing, they can help patients with a broad spectrum of conditions.

MDU medicolegal adviser Dr Ellie Mein said: ‘According to Assistance Dogs UK, over 7,000 disabled people in the UK rely on an assistance dog to help with practical tasks - offering emotional support and independence.

'One of those tasks may be to support a patient when attending a medical appointment, so it’s important for our members to know how to deal with such a scenario. While the term "assistance dog" most commonly refers to guide or hearing dogs, it can also mean service dogs for those with other conditions. While many dogs receive specific training some assistance dogs can be owner selected and trained.

'If a staff member is allergic to dogs or has a phobia, then the practice should take reasonable steps to minimise that individual’s exposure to assistance dogs. However, neither are valid reasons for denying an assistance dog entry to the practice.’

Writing in the MDU journal, the organisation shared the case of an anonymous practice who sought advice after a patient’s assistance dog jumped at a healthcare assistant who was afraid of dogs.

It continued that healthcare professionals have a legal duty to do all they can to enable disabled patients access their services, as well as treating the individuals fairly.

Previously, the Equality and Human Rights Commission produced a guide for businesses on assistance dogs, while the charity Guide Dogs explains: ‘There may be areas within the health facility where a guide dog may not be permitted due to infection control or health and safety issues,’ in which case alternative support will be required for the patient, and a suitable location found for the assistance dog to be left safely.

A BMA survey earlier this year found that half of GP practices aren’t fit for purpose, and highlighted the need for improved access for disabled patients.

The Patients Association also released a report claiming that four in ten patients feel their GP practice is in a poor environment that makes them anxious or stressed. It also singled out issues with access for disabled people.

Readers' comments (6)

  • I'd quite like to keep my dog with me while I consult. Maybe under the desk though he is quite large.

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  • Absolute rubbsih.
    We want as few extraneous family members as possible in consultations. Dependent children is usually innapropriate, pets is utter nonsense.
    MDU has considered staff, and abolished their rights!, but what about other patients??
    And who is responsible for cleaning up and incidents with other patients?
    We need a strong 'no dog' policy, and only blind dogs should be acceptable, as they are reliably trained.
    Untrained dogs are a risk to staff, patients, and doctors,, safety and hygeine, and I for one will definitely not allow them.
    Cats is different, MDU, cats should be allowed free entry and to walk all over sterile surfaces, as they are very clean animals. In fact, so are cockroaches, they clean up after humans even!

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  • I’m very allergic to dogs. If a dog owning patient comes into my room, I will sneeze within seconds. When I visit a house with a dog I will itch cough and sneeze for some hours afterwards. Despite this I’m happy to allow guidedogs into my consulting room, even though I may have to spend some time recovering afterwards, and then use a different room for the rest of the surgery.
    Dog owners do not give any consideration to people with allergies.
    We can have peanut free planes and schools, but dogs can go anywhere. Don’t get me started on the bags of excrement that hang from the bushes and trees around here

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  • As long as they have adequate training, I think they could take over many of the roles in primary care. Certainly, the efficacy of dogs involved in CBT has been shown (Rover et al 2019, Ralphthewonderdog 2017). I would have some reservations with minor surgery, mainly to the possibility of needle stick injuries due to handling issues but wound care could be a great area to explore ( Effects of licking of wounds, Journal of Woof Studies ) And.....oh, I misread this , didn't I? I'll just get my coat then.......

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  • Aren't NHS England funding 70% of an assistance dog from year 3 of PCNs? And there's a requirement to work with local kennels.

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  • Why just dogs? I have a patient that uses equine-assisted therapy. Am thinking of changing the play area into a stable.

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