Great Horwood charity Medical Detection Dogs has a new Royal patron – and a massively raised profile – following a visit to St James’s Palace on Tuesday.
The Duchess of Cornwall has taken a keen interest in the charity since visiting its north Bucks headquarters last year at the invitation of director Dr Claire Guest and local patron Betsy Duncan Smith.
This week, the charity found itself in the media spotlight when it was invited to give a demonstration in front of the Duchess and the Prince of Wales at St James’s Palace.
Medical Detection Dogs trains dogs to use their highly-developed sense of smell to detect cancer in urine samples. It also trains medical assistance dogs to help people with health conditions such as diabetes.
The dogs are trained to alert people when they detect the odour changes that are associated with life-threatening medical events such as hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).
On Tuesday, dogs and their owners visited the palace along with representatives of the charity to give a demonstration in front of the Duchess, the Prince of Wales, leading oncologists, celebrity supporters and the national press.
Dr Guest said: “It was incredible.
“To have the support of the Duchess and to have her as patron, it’s a recognition of our work. It’s like a Royal seal of approval.
“But to be invited to the palace and meet Prince Charles, it’s all very exciting. He was just so interested and obviously so taken with what the dogs were doing. It made it a delight. It was a privilege to demonstrate the work to them.
“When you look back, it was a very, very enjoyable and happy occasion.”
Cancer detection dogs demonstrated their skill at detecting the odour of cancer from samples on a carousel.
Then their Royal Highnesses met three cancer detection dogs and three medical alert assistance dogs trained by the charity, with their owners.
Among the guests at St James’s Palace was comedian Bill Bailey, who is an ambassador for a prostate cancer campaign and has been proactive in trying to raise awareness of the disease.
Dr Guest said: “He was very impressed and he said he felt incredibly moved by it and he felt we could make a huge difference.”
Also present was consultant urologist Iqbal Anjum from Milton Keynes Hospital, with whom the charity is in the process of entering into a partnership to assess the dogs’ reliability over a large number of samples.
Among the clinicians attending the event were well-known oncologists Dr Alan Makepeace and Prof Karol Sikora, who both support the charity’s work.
The high-profile occasion resulted in national press coverage, including an interview in The Times and an appearance by one of the charity’s patrons, actress Lesley Nicol, on ITV’s Daybreak.
Dr Guest said the palace visit had been “a breakthrough” for the charity.
She said: “There were a number of people in the room who were seeing our dogs working for the very first time.
“It gave us the opportunity to present our work. Everybody was very impressed.”