Sniffer dog enlisted to detect illegal drugs in Sunderland mental hospital wards

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A SNIFFER dog is making the rounds in Sunderland hospitals to prevent illegal drugs on wards.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust has enlisted Coco the cocker spaniel.

Accompanied by former police dog handler John McCarroll, the dog will search buildings and grounds, which include Cherry Knowle Hospital in Ryhope and Monkwearmouth Hospital.

In the past, if staff suspected any kind of drug misuse, it would have taken up to two weeks to arrange a search. But by introducing Coco, the problems can be sniffed out quickly.

Coco will supplement her detective role by working in the wards for elderly patients and children as a “pets for therapy” dog.

Gary O’Hare, director of nursing and operations at the trust, said: “Coco and John have been an excellent addition to our staff teams and have already made a massive difference to the way we deal with the problem of illegal drug misuse across our services.

“The safety of our patients and staff is our main priority, and this scheme will ensure we can continue to offer a safe and supportive environment for those receiving treatment, whilst giving people the confidence to report anything they find suspicious, either in our buildings or anywhere in our grounds.”

Sergeant Steve Foster, from Northumbria Police’s dog training unit, said: “I’m sure she’ll be an asset to the NHS Foundation Trust and will no doubt help staff in their aim of creating a safe environment for all who use their services.”