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Milton Keynes Charity asks for help to fund Robopets for local care home residents

Tell us about Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital & Community..

MK Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital & Community are an independent charity supporting the hospital and surrounding community for over 40 years. Previously known as League of Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital, this was formed in 1979 with a grant of £10,000 from MK Council which meant we were involved in the very early development of the hospital, raising money for extra items for the patients. Once the hospital opened, we started a small shop in the old main entrance, over the years this has evolved into a café and convenience store. We changed our name to MK Friends of Milton Keynes Hospital & Community as it then enabled us to raise money for patients in the community as well as the hospital, such as the ambulance service, local GP practices and outside Physiotherapy departments. Since 1985 the MK Friends shop has been run as a limited company and all profits are gift aided to our charity. The shop has paid rent to the hospital since 1990. In 1988 we started a daily ward trolley service providing patients, visitors and staff with newspapers, magazines, drinks, confectionery, toiletries, and many other items.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic we unfortunately had to suspend our trolley service, this encouraged us to launch our online shop with delivery to patient wards which has been a great success and the first of its kind in the country! Hospitals in other parts of the country have been contacting us to help them set up their own online shop. Family and friends that are not always able to visit can order online for a delivery to their loved one, or the patient themselves can order, maybe forgotten toiletries, something to read, ear plugs or a phone charger, or a drink or snack. All profits go to improve patient experience. We have raised over £3,500,000 in the last 40 years and purchased items for the hospital and community including the hospital's first CT Scanner, patient furniture, beds, wheelchairs, and medical equipment. A full list of our purchases is available to view on our website

We've loved hearing about your Robopets Christmas Campaign, could you tell us what Robopets are and about the company?

Our current fundraising campaign is the Robopet campaign. Robotic companion pets are hugely beneficial for people who suffer with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, also the elderly, and anyone suffering from mental health issues. An effective, drug-free way to calm and soothe is to give them a soft toy they can cuddle and interact with.

People with Alzheimer's and dementia frequently become agitated, anxious, and frustrated and could benefit from a pet, but would have difficulty in managing the safe care of a real animal. The robotic pets move, purr, bark and respond when petted or hugged. Some think these are real animals and feel a sense of purpose when they pet and care for them. Others may simply enjoy them as a fun, cuddly interactive toy. Many caregivers report that after giving their patient a robotic animal, they’ve seen positive results like increased happiness and calm, reduced agitation and anxiety, increased engagement through playing and talking with their companion, having a sense of purpose from caring for their pet, reliving happy memories of a previous dog or cat and giving visitors (especially children) something to focus on and interact with for more successful visits.

We have trialled these pets at Burlington Hall care home in Woburn Sands with great success, we have witnessed first-hand the happiness they bring and the impact they have. The pets were hugged, kissed, brushed, taken for walks, even sung to. They loved that the pets interacted with them, one lady saying that the dog talked to her all day and slept on her bed at night. It was so lovely to see the smiles and the calming effect these Robopets had, also relieving some pressure off the staff.

We have also donated these pets to MK Hospital and these are now on the Dementia wards.

The company that provides these is called Robopets, a family run business who care passionately about improving lives, they are deeply involved in the community and have met many people who have benefitted from robotic companion pets and are proud to be the official supplier to the NHS.

There have been successful trials of these Robopets across the country, we have heard so many stories of people who were quiet and withdrawn who suddenly started talking to the pet and how emotional it was to see the change in the person. Or how the pet reminded them of their old cat or dog and would then tell stories of them. Our last visit to Burlington Hall care home saw the residents talking and discussing what names they should give the pets. Robopets have numerous benefits to older adults including easing loneliness and social isolation, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts cognitive activity, aids interaction with others and they are easy to look after and maintain.

How does the Milton Keynes Community get the funds to you in order to purchase a Robopet and what happens next?

Our campaign page is set up on Just Giving, we aren’t wasting any time so as soon as funds come in we are purchasing the Robopets and distributing them right away. We are hoping for individual and group fundraising, business sponsorship and encouraging media coverage with our deliveries. We are hoping to raise enough funds to purchase the Robopets for every care home in Milton Keynes!

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