Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please continue to wear your face mask while you are in our hospitals and community services.

For health information and advice, read our pages on coronavirus. Learn about the government response to coronavirus on GOV.UK

Sid the Springer Spaniel joins CNTW

Posted: 29/06/21

Dog Handler John McCarroll with Sid, Springer Spaniel, in the grounds of St Nicholas Hospital

An exciting new four-legged member of staff has recently joined Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. Sid, a 2-year old Springer Spaniel, will be working across the trust’s mental health and disability services as a narcotics search dog.

He is joining CNTW to support Coco, a Cocker Spaniel who joined CNTW in 2013 as the trust’s first narcotics search dog.

Coco has worked at the trust for eight years and will soon be retiring once a suitable replacement has been found. This is no easy task, as search dogs are highly trained and must have the right temperament for the job.

Sid and Coco’s work helps to prevent patients, staff and visitors at the trust’s sites being affected by the use and sale of illegal substances.

The safety of our patients and staff is our main priority. Having highly trained search dogs and handlers based with us makes a massive difference to the way we are able to deal with the problem of illegal drug misuse across our services.

Gary O’HareChief Nurse, CNTW

A new dog handler, John McCarroll, will also be joining the Trust to assist Sid. He will join existing dog handler John Ashworth. Both handlers have previously worked as narcotics search dog handlers with Northumbria Police. (John McCarroll is being reunited with Coco, as he was her first handler for a short time when she joined CNTW in 2013.)

The dogs and handlers have all been trained and accredited in partnership with Northumbria Police. Sid and Coco are both licensed by the Home Office to carry out searches for illegal substances.

Dog Handler John Ashworth with Coco, Cocker Spaniel, in the grounds of St Nicholas Hospital
Dog Handler John Ashworth with Coco, Cocker Spaniel, in the grounds of St Nicholas Hospital

When Coco joined the Trust in 2013, CNTW was the first NHS trust outside London to operate this form of drug detection and prevention scheme. Since then, several other NHS trusts across the UK have adopted a similar approach.

The Trust enjoys an excellent working relationship with local police forces. But before the introduction of a search dog at the trust, if staff suspected any kind of substance misuse arranging a search could sometimes be difficult and time-consuming. Having dedicated search dogs and handlers based at the trust allows staff to react quickly and confidentially to any suspicions.

The dogs and their handlers have also begun providing narcotics search services to Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust. This pooling of resources has enabled both trusts to benefit from having a larger team of dedicated search dogs, improving safety of staff and patients at both organisations.

CNTW’s Chief Nurse Gary O’Hare was delighted to welcome a new dog and handler to the trust. He said, “The safety of our patients and staff is our main priority. Having highly trained search dogs and handlers based with us makes a massive difference to the way we are able to deal with the problem of illegal drug misuse across our services.

“Over the past eight years, John Ashworth and Coco have done a huge amount to support and educate our staff around substance misuse. We are excited to welcome John McCarroll and Sid to expand on that work. Their presence ensures that we can continue to offer a safe and calm environment for those receiving treatment. It also gives people the confidence to report anything they find suspicious, either on our wards or anywhere in our grounds.

“We hope to find a suitable successor to Coco soon so she can enjoy a well-deserved retirement – though she will continue to visit us as a much-loved ‘pets for therapy’ dog on our Older Persons and Children’s wards.”