VET’S DIARY: It’s more open all hours at this vets’ practice

Most people’s attention will be focused on Christmas preparations by the time they read this, writes Paul Freeman.

David Young, in his article last week, emphasised the perils that Christmas can present to our four-legged companions, not least the dangers of eating things that are not good for them.

I remember vividly one Boxing Day not long after I qualified, working as an assistant vet in Ludlow.

I spent most of the day attending to a greedy young spaniel who had stolen a turkey leg from the kitchen table. The turkey bones had lodged in his intestines and needed emergency surgery to remove them. He made a complete recovery, but his life did hang in the balance for a few hours.

It certainly spoilt his owners’ Christmas and curtailed my time with my family, a recurring theme which my wife has long since come to accept.

In fact, during my first four years in Rothbury, when I was running a single-handed practice, I was on call every night and every weekend, with the very occasional break when I employed a locum.

We had three young children under five and my wife looked after the girls, took the practice phone calls and kept me fed and watered: A feat for which I will be eternally grateful.

Being on call is part and parcel of the job for vets in practice, and most of us accept it with good grace.

And I think all country vets will say that some of their most memorable cases are the ones that they have seen out-of-hours.

But times are changing. Rather like medical GPs, more veterinary practices are contracting out their on-call cover.

But there are major disadvantages, in that the out-of-hours clinic will usually not know the client or animal or have access to the animal’s clinical records.

Also, hospitalised cases often have to be transported back and forth between the practices. The situation becomes even more problematic in rural areas for two reasons.

Firstly, the extra distances involved in getting to another practice, or getting a visit from a vet from another practice, result in unacceptable delays in treating emergency cases.

Secondly, many farm and horse clients will be difficult to find for a vet who is based miles away and doesn’t know the area.

As we have always done, Alnorthumbria will continue to provide their own emergency service out-of-hours, as we feel strongly that it is important to ensure this high standard of care and level of service for our clients and their animals.

We always have four or five vets, as well as two nurses, on call at nights and weekends to cover the whole practice, so that emergency cases can be treated as soon as possible.

This should come as some reassurance to our clients with the festive holiday season approaching; not for us the nine-to-five ethos, more a case of open all hours.