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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Plan for 'pets on prescription'
Bess dog, BBC
Pets are believed to have a therapeutic effect on their owners
Patients are to be given grants of up to 1,000 so they can boost their health by buying a pet.

Medical experts believe that looking after an animal can have a therapeutic effect on the owner.

Now, a health trust in south London, is running a pilot scheme which will allow doctors to offer the chance to care for a pet.

Lewisham Primary Care Trust said owning an animal can help people recover faster and reduce isolation.

Trust spokesman Oliver Lake said it is hoped a pet will keep the patient out of hospital.

Caseworkers will be allocated the budget and will decide which items will help to improve the patient's wellbeing.

'Improve health'

Mr Lake said: "What is bought for the patient is dependent on what the caseworker believes is necessary for the patient in order to improve his or her health.

"Evidence suggests that caring for a pet can help patients get better, but there are many other options."

Other items that can be bought with the grant include a type of chair, air conditioning, heater, transport to a social club, or an overnight carer.

Five practices in the borough are taking part in the pilot.

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