The last few months have passed in a blur of veterinary work and business planning trying to adjust to this new and totally unexpected situation we find ourselves in.
The long-term consequences of this pandemic will only be realised in the coming years but for now, all we can do is deal with what’s in front of us.
Like most veterinary practices for the first two months of lockdown we were restricted to only seeing emergency cases, or cases that were likely to become an emergency in the next few weeks.
As with others, we furloughed most of our staff and ran the practice with a skeleton staff. As some restrictions have eased we are using the part-time furlough arrangement to try and provide excellent care for pets while observing public health guidelines.
Like other businesses we have found this a challenging process and have had to completely change the way we function.
We haven’t let clients into the practice since March – all consulting is done in the car parks to the front and rear of the practice or by telephone.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has relaxed a regulation requiring veterinary surgeons to examine an animal in consultation before being allowed to dispense prescription-only medications.
This means that in certain circumstances at the veterinary surgeon’s discretion we can prescribe remotely after telephone or video consultation.
My staff have adapted to the new processes and our clients are all helping us continue to function. We are currently looking at putting up fixed shelters in the front and rear car park to continue outdoor consulting into the winter. As for other business owners, we are finding predicting how we will proceed over the next six to 12 months very difficult, and we adapt almost on a weekly basis.
I have heard reports of many vets and nurses feeling stressed as they continue to strive to care for the pets under their care. Long shifts, reduced staff levels and anxious owners creating an environment of tiredness and frustration.
I believe it is vital that staff and owners work together to make the provision of veterinary care as easy as possible under these trying times. I have my staff on reduced or normal shift patterns so they can recover from the intensity of their work day.
To help reduce the stress on staff I would advise you to contact your practice to find out what procedures your vets are using to ensure public safety as well as providing a safe environment for staff.
For example, we currently use carriers or lead hooks to provide a contactless handover of pets always ensuring a minimum of 2 metres social distancing from clients. This feels very strange especially as we have built up our practice providing personal care in a warm and friendly environment but is a necessary measure to minimise the chance of transmission.
We are also only taking remote payments over the phone or by transfer to minimise physical contact with surfaces and clients. All these measures require our clients to be on board and work with us which is going extremely well at the moment.
Animals are a great source of comfort and companionship, and this is especially important during these uncertain and stressful times. The unconditional loyalty of your dog, the cuddle and purr of your feline friend, the amusement of watching your hamster on its wheel – these all bring some joy and relief to our lives as we all cope with our unique circumstances.
Should you have any concerns about your pets, or just need some reassurance, please contact the team at St Vincents Veterinary Surgery on 0118 979 3200.
St Vincents is an independent veterinary surgery owned and run by Nancy and Michael Morrow. We have been providing personal care for pets in and around Wokingham since 2005. For more information visit www.stvincentsvets.co.uk or find us on Facebook.