GUINEA pigs, dogs and a fancy rat have been putting smiles on the faces of hospital patients.

Furry friends have been paying a visit to medical care centres as part of a new pets as therapy scheme.

Short-term care facility Darley Court was the latest centre to receive some adorable visitors, aiming to help people recover quicker.

Nurses say the scheme can lift patients' spirits as many people miss their own pets while they are away from home receiving treatment.

Matron Kate Myatt said the feedback has been brilliant so far: “You can tell instantly that people enjoy having the animals visit.

"It is something which lifts the entire day – the smiles on people’s faces make it really obvious.

Along with other four-legged creatures, pups Sydney and Alfie have also been lending a paw to help people in their recovery.

Alfie the pug took a trip around the Bolton NHS Foundation Trust children's ward, while Sydney the basset hound has also been making the rounds at the hospital.

Sydney was the first animal recruit for the Royal Bolton Hospital, passing a pets as therapy test.

Since then, the dog has been a regular visitor at the hospital, taking 20-minute tours of the various wards.

His owner, nutrition specialist nurse Sue Ellis, said: "It's really lovely because you can feel the atmosphere change. People are excited to see him. He brings a smile to their faces."

Matron Myatt added: “We’re really pleased to be enhancing the experience people have of our care but also to see this having an impact on falls.

"We have done a number of things to reduce falls so it’s difficult to pin the result on animal therapy in isolation but the reduction since putting the programme of activities in place is statistically significant.”

Falls in Bolton 's Darley Court have reduced in recent months since the pets started making an appearance.

In quarter one the number of falls per 1,000 bed days was 15.6. By quarter three, they had fallen to 4.7.