An NHS worker says she would have given up work and wouldn’t have had the confidence to leave the house, if it wasn’t for her disability assistance dog.

Natasha Lees is excelling at her job as a human resources manager with Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Board – thanks to Giles, an English Springer Spaniel who has been trained by the national Support Dogs charity.

Support Dogs trains and provides dogs to help children with autism and adults with epilepsy or a physical disability to live safer, more independent lives. Natasha, of Mansfield Woodhouse, is currently working towards a Level 7 Senior People Professional apprenticeship and has also recently completed her advanced CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) diploma.

To mark National Inclusion Week, which celebrates inclusion and taking action to create inclusive workplaces, the 42-year-old highlighted how her “amazing” employers have allowed Giles, a rescue dog, to aid her working life.

At 18, Natasha had a place at Sandhurst, the prestigious Royal military academy and she had an Army career lined up. But an injury to her spine while on military exercise in the Falklands put a stop to that. Natasha has a degenerative disc disease and has since been under the care of a spinal specialist. She can be left in unbearable pain, uses a walking stick and has since had spinal fusion surgery.

But Giles has helped Natasha not only with day-to-day tasks, but also in her work life following a career switch to the NHS. She said: “Even before I had help from Support Dogs, my employers were amazing and amenable to the idea of me bringing a dog into the office and me wanting to turn him into an assistance dog.” She added that her line manager supported her throughout Giles’ training process with the Sheffield-based charity, allowing her to have disability leave for his initial training and authorising special leave for Giles’ reaccreditation with the charity each year.

Natasha, who now works hybrid remotely, said: “The biggest help is when we were working in the office and Giles gave me the confidence in knowing I could go in and be safe if I was alone, as he was trained to go and get help if something happened to me, like a fall.” 

Other tasks Giles helps with include picking items up off the floor, finding Natasha’s phone and opening doors and drawers.

“I just don’t think I would be in work if I didn’t have him,” she said. “Between my physical health and my mental health, I think they would have spiralled and escalated without him.

“Before we moved to the hybrid model, he was the main reason to get up and leave the house. Before I worked at home I wouldn’t have been able to attend the office without him. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to leave the house. I would have ended up not working. I wouldn’t have been working where I’m working now, in the position I’m working in."

“All of what I’ve achieved is because he made it possible for me to attend an office environment.”

She said she couldn’t fault her employers, adding: “Generally it was the line manager’s compassion and flexibility to the idea of an assistance dog that changed my life.”

Gemma Waring, head of human resources for NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, said: “As an employer we want to give all our people the opportunity to bring their true selves to work and to be able to thrive in that environment.

“Making adjustments and incorporating flexibility into an individual’s working practices is part of that process and Natasha and Giles are a shining example of the positive impact this can have on our people’s whole life not just the time they spend with us at work.”

To find out more about Support Dogs, please visit