Providing the reassurance that your pet will be well cared for 24-7-365
In this article, our Wimborne Clinical Director Duncan Reavell talks about his thoughts and experiences regarding providing care for pets out of hours, and explains why we believe our partnership with Vets Now offers the best possible care for your pet.
I qualified as a vet before the turn of the millennium. That actually makes it sound longer ago than it was, but in the nineteen years since, the profession has been through such dramatic changes that it might as well be another age.
One of the biggest changes I have seen regards out of hours care (OOH) that we used to refer to as “on-call”. When I qualified from Cambridge University my first job was what I call the “full James Herriott”, working in deepest darkest Suffolk in a fully mixed practice, taking all comers - dogs, cats, cows, lots of horses and the odd pig too.
At the end of the day all the vets went home but one of the five of us would take a pager home (it was before mobile phones were common- we had a brick of a car phone but the reception was horrendous!). Most nights on call you got a couple of advice calls and one or two visits, either to the surgery for a sick dog or out to the farms for a cow with milk fever, or a horse with colic. If you were lucky you got a night’s sleep, if you were unlucky you got none.
And that’s why I don’t miss this way of doing things. We always had a normal working day the next day and it could be very busy. Effectively doing a 36-hour shift was not healthy for me and not good for our patient care. Our in-patients were left on their own on a drip at the practice while I was at home asleep or on a visit. It was not unusual to come rushing into the practice at 2 in the morning and find alarms going on various monitoring machines.
What has changed in the last two decades is that these kinds of arrangements are now much rarer, except in the depths of the countryside. The EU working time directive outlawed the old system of working nights and days consecutively. Newer vets expect a decent work-life balance to be able to be at their best for clients in the daytime. With unacceptably high rates of stress related illness and suicide in the profession it is vital we protect our staff.
Most practices have specialised in one species or another. And even within one sector owners now have much more choice: for instance for a dog or a cat you can look for a PDSA or RSPCA clinic if you qualify, a budget chain of corporate vets if cost is a major concern, or an independent like Lynwood if you want a personal service and the best standards of care.
In 2004 Lynwood split off farm work and equine to local specialists in these fields, becoming a dedicated companion animal practice. Our out-of-hours was taken over by Black Dragon, a team of night vets who specialised in emergency care based at our Bournemouth branch.
What was great about this was that there was always a full vet team on site and awake, and the patients got much better care than the old system. And our daytime vets felt they could fully relax at the end of the day, recharge, and be ready for a full day’s work the next day.
Over time we lost the overnight care from our practices and recently we have been working with another provider in Poole. However, we have always yearned to get the OOH back inside one of our branches. Our clients would know where to come on a dark night when they were likely to be very distressed. In-patients would not need to be moved to another site when possibly critically ill.
We have tried a variety of different approaches to get this working and financially sustainable but it has been surprisingly difficult. The costs of providing an out of hours service of a high standard are very high, often in the past subsidised from other fees in the daytime practice. It is very difficult to ensure staffing levels with a competent well supported team. Eventually we concluded that Lynwood’s is just too small to go it alone.
So we are very excited to have been given the opportunity to work with Vets Now at our newly refurbished Wimborne clinic. Vets Now are the nationwide leader of provision of out of hours clinics. They run dozens of out of hours clinics across the country, including in Salisbury and Southampton.
Vets Now have a well established reputation as delivering a gold standard of emergency care, when you need it the most. This fits with Lynwood’s ethos of putting client care and patient welfare first and foremost. We are very excited that our high standards of care can now continue right through the night, every day of the year.
Much like a hospital A&E department, Vets Now will centralise the emergency service for all our branches at the Wimborne practice. Vets Now will also offer their services to other practices in the area, supported by our ambulance service to aid patient transfers. This will help keep the costs under control and ensure this arrangement is sustainable for the future.
We want to offer the best care for all our clients and their pets that we can, and are sure that the partnership with Vets Now is the best way to achieve this. Exciting times!