A WOMAN from the Conwy Borough area and her Border Collie have been given a special award for their help to support the recovery of people with serious mental health problems.

Sally Moorhouse and Twix were presented with the 'Seren Betsi Award' by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chief executive, Gary Doherty, during a surprise visit to Glan Clwyd Hospital’s Ablett Psychiatric Unit.

Established in 2016, the monthly award honours the hard work and dedication of North Wales NHS staff and volunteers.

The dedicated duo’s weekly visits to the Denbighshire mental health unit have been credited with lifting the mood and self-esteem of patients, and increasing their willingness to engage with staff.

12-year-old Twix was the first therapy dog to be used in a North Wales hospital when she first started visiting the Ablett Unit in 2010.

A network co-ordinated by the Therapy Dogs Nationwide charity now make regular visits to hospitals across the region.

Sally and her canine companion were nominated for the award by Ablett Unit Activity Workers Barry Griffiths and Ceira Lewis, who describe Sally as the most dedicated volunteer they have ever worked with.

Barry said: “She travels from her home in Llysfaen in all weather and often arranges her holidays so she doesn’t miss a Friday. This year she even attended the Unit on Christmas Day to visit our patients. It was a surprise visit which hugely lifted spirits of those patients unable to go home.

“Sally is kind, empathetic and very generous with her time. She always makes the patients feel important and finds time to talk to everyone, even if it means finishing slightly later than planned. The patients think the world of her.

“I have witnessed non-communicative patients speak for the first time on the ward when interacting with Twix. On numerous occasions I have seen patients with poor motivation making the effort to get dressed and get to the activity room just to see her. I often have Sally and Twix to thank for being the catalyst for patients starting to attend daily activities.”

Sally, a retired GP practice manager, said she was humbled and shocked and to receive the ward.

"Twix has her own anxieties and she seems to recognise this in humans too. She has the ability to recognise when people aren’t happy," she added.

“It’s very humbling that this scrap of a dog who cost £25 can have such an amazing effect on so many people. People will often tell me that Twix’s visit has been the best part of their week.”