The Stroke Unit at St Helier hospital has finished its transformation at the hands of patients, relatives and researchers.

Led by Professor Fiona Jones, the unit was refurbished by academics including from Kingston and St George's University of London, in a three year study funded by the National Institute of Health Research.

The project was known as Collaborative Rehabilitation Environments in Acute Stroke project (shortened to CREATE) and as a consequence the rooms and bays on the ward now look less clinical and the hospital said patients feel more relaxed during their stay.

The walls now feature original artwork and a forest art mural has been installed in the therapy gym. Bay and rooms have different themes - such as nature, seaside and forest - to help patients feel more comfortable and free to move around, which the hospital said helps drive recovery.

Mayor of Sutton councillor Jean Crossby visited recently to see the improvements, speak to patients, staff and visitors - and to say hello to the unit's therapy dog, Dudley.

Dudley is two years old and he visits the Stroke Unit every Monday afternoon, for one hour. Within this time, patients get to groom him, throw a ball, pet him and sometimes give him a treat.

It is one of several initiatives, which include things like 'social dining activities', nicknamed 'Come Dine With Me'.

Chief executive of Epsom and St Helier hospitals, Daniel Elkeles, said: “We were delighted to welcome Madam Mayor and would like to thank her for taking the time to come and have a look at the changes we have made to the Stroke Unit. It was a great opportunity for our staff to reflect on progress we have made, and take the time to celebrate their achievements.”

Ruth Hodkinson, occupational therapy technician, said: “We have found since running pet therapy, our patients have really enjoyed the experience of being able to interact with a dog, which could be an everyday activity that a patient would normally do at home. This can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable.”

Former patient Lynn Scarth said that she joined the CREATE group to give her experience and feedback. She explained: “The changes make such a huge difference. It does not look small and cluttered anymore. The Stroke Unit is now a better space where you feel welcomed, comfortable and where recovery feels possible.”