Our latest update (17 May 2021):
We’re not sure any of us would have predicted that this is where we would be over a year on from that first lockdown! Given the recent changes in the government roadmap, we thought that now would be a good time to outline our plans.
The government has stated they are basing their decisions on
- Vaccination deployment
- Reduction in hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
- The risk of a surge in hospitalisations which would be unsustainable for the NHS
- The risks posed by new Variants of Concern
This information is outlined here. Taking the changes that have arisen from this strategy, we’ve assessed what the risks to our team going forward will be, and outlined our plans for the coming months below.
As always, it is a long read, but we want to be clear, transparent and comprehensive. Please do read through to familiarise yourself with what your pet’s care will look like over the coming months.
So will you be opening up the practice as normal again?
No. As our clients are aware, when the pandemic hit and lockdown was enforced back in 2020 we implemented a closed waiting room policy. Our wonderful team of receptionists have been running a concierge service for medication and food collections, as much of our paperwork went online as possible and consultations take place with the vet discussing your pet with you in the car park, bringing them in for their examination and treatment as necessary, and then returning them to your vehicle (or for their walk home, depending on how you came in!). We do not plan on working like this long term. We know you miss coming in, and we miss having you here!
Why are you keeping the waiting room doors closed for the time being?
The government roadmap is designed to protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed and to reduce deaths in the general population. Their roadmap out of lockdown is not designed to protect every person on an individual level, and as an employer in a crucial industry, it is our responsibility to keep our staff and clients safe. Our areas of risk are the following:
- We cannot provide our services without at least some contact with our clients. This means that every contact we have with you face to face comes with some risk, which is why we ask that you continue to socially distance and wear a mask when you visit us.
- Veterinary work does not allow for social distancing between team members. We need our nurses to hold your pets for the vet for them to be examined, treated or have blood drawn, as well as monitoring their anaesthetic while they are here for procedures, and these activities cannot be done except in close (sometimes very close!) physical proximity to one another. This means that almost inevitably, if one person in our team does contract the virus, we will have to ask several members of the team to self isolate. We are preventing against the whole team having to do so by having split teams and using PPE, but the guidelines given by PHE are on a case by case basis, and we have to assume the worst case scenario in our planning.
- A reduction in staff, even in small numbers, due to self isolation requirements may mean a return to urgent and emergency care work only. With four vets, it would only take 2 of them having to self isolate for us to have to reduce the client contact workload by 50% – this would mean making changes like postponing all routine care, which can also have knock on effects later (for example, postponing this now would mean longer wait times for appointments over summer which is our busiest season). It would result in slower delivery of services such as repeat medication dispensing (currently we are able to arrange this at one working day’s notice for everything except special orders, this would likely go to 3 days notice), delivery of laboratory results etc, which would directly impact your pet and the service we deliver to you. We don’t want this for you or you pets, so we need our team fit and healthy!
- Our consult rooms do not allow for social distancing; there’s only about a metre between the door of the consult room and the consult table. Fitting 3 people (vet, nurse and client!) would not be possible.
- 40% of our team are under 30 years old. This means they are in the last bracket for vaccination (unless it does get extended to under 18s) which means that they do not have the benefit of protection from the vaccine. Similarly, our client demographics vary hugely, and there are a significant proportion that will not have been offered the vaccine yet.
- Everything else opening up does mean that there is another surge in cases predicted. The current scope of this surge is not known, but we don’t want to flip flop between allowing everyone in and then having to close the waiting room again.
- International travel, despite the traffic light system being introduced, is likely to pose a significant risk in terms of new variants entering the UK. Not only do we want to avoid contracting these variants (which the vaccines have not yet been fully tested for efficacy against), but we would also have to introduce additional screening, and the statistics on people properly self isolating when required to are not encouraging in this regard
Our team needs to feel safe coming to work, and our clients need to feel safe to continue to seek our services. Our patients don’t seem to be minding the changes too much as long as there are cuddles during their visit and treats at the end of it! While this approach may seem overly cautious, we are a small business and it is vital that we are able to continue our work for the sake of all the pets that rely on us to give them the treatment they need, when they need it.
What if I am fully vaccinated?
While the vaccines have proven to be successful in reducing deaths and hospitalisations, as well as reducing transmission, they are not 100% foolproof. We cannot take the risk, for the reasons above, to allow exceptions to the rule. We also do not feel it is fair to ask our staff, who already work incredibly hard, to have to police this. We ask that you respect this decision. We will make an announcement if there is a change to this policy.
When will this policy be reviewed?
Although we do not put out an update each time, we review this policy at least every month. We are not anticipating any significant changes until all of our team has been offered the full course of the vaccine. While we have to uphold our policy, we too are counting down the days until we can be in a consult room with you again!
Where can I read more about what you’ve been doing to make sure everyone is safe?
Below! Information can be found about our consult and surgery process, how to order food and medications, our online booking system and much more! We appreciate the ongoing support, kindness and understanding shown by you, our clients, as we work through this time.
How do you measure the success of this policy?
We know that it is working when we can:
- Ensure the safety of our clients, their pets and our team
- Continue providing urgent and emergency care
- Continue providing essential care
- Attest to no positive cases among staff members
- Continue to provide our urgent and emergency services even if there is a positive case in the team
- Ensure clients will not struggle to get an urgent or emergency appointment for their pets
Since then, we have also added:
- Carry out all appointments on their usual schedule
These targets have so far been met – with a combination of the team being sensible outside of work, and all the measures we have put in place at the practice, we have had no positive cases to date, and have continued to provide your pet’s care and made sure we are available when needed.
This was able to be done due to the following measures:
- Initially split our small (but mighty!) team of 14 (now 15!) staff members into two smaller teams working in two separate buildings, so that if one team member contracts the virus, we would not have to self-isolate everyone (rendering us unable to provide our services) because we work in very close quarters with one another for extended periods of time. As it stands, there is always a team who can step in to be able to run the practice and provide your pets with the care they need, to the same high standard our clients expect – it would be on an urgent and emergency basis only though.
- Introduced temperature checking our team every day they are in practice with non-contact thermometers to ensure they are cleared to work.
- Took our already rigorous cleaning protocols (they have to be in a veterinary surgery!) and stepped them up even more.
- Moved a significant number of our services online so that clients could submit insurance claim processing requests, request repeat medications and food, book appointments and contact our team easily – this also helps the team as it keeps phone lines clear for urgent and emergency calls.
- Kept the practice open with a ‘concierge’ service. This means that our doors have been locked, with vets and nurses collecting your lovely pets from you in the car park, and reception bringing food and medication out to you.
- Kept our full staff without furloughing or reduced hours to ensure maximum delivery of services.
- Reduced our working hours by one hour in the weekday to allow the team time to catch up on work and recharge before the next day.
- Increased the number of appointments available per vet on a day to make up for the shortfall created by having split teams and outdoor consults.
- Introduced telephone and video consultations in line with the rules put in place by our regulatory body so that those who are self-isolating or unwell can still have access to our services for cases that are suitable.
You can read more about these services and the work we are doing below. If you would like to ask about anything that is not listed, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will get back to you.
If there are any queries relating to what we discuss in this document, please do not hesitate to send us an email. We are asking for non-urgent enquiries to be made online as this allows us to keep our increasingly busy phone lines available for those whose pets need urgent or emergency treatment.
If you fall into any of the categories below:
- Have travelled abroad recently
- Are currently showing symptoms of a cough, higher than usual temperature or any of the usual flu symptoms
- Live with or have been in close contact (under 2 metres distance, for longer than 15 minutes) with someone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus (COVID-19) or is currently in self-isolation due to potential exposure or symptoms, or are the caregiver for someone in isolation or who has been diagnosed
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19
And your pet needs medical care, please contact us by telephone on 01435 864422 so that we can arrange to provide what your pet needs. Please do not arrive at the practice without having spoken to a member of staff on the telephone first, and make sure to inform them which of the above categories you fall into so that we are able to give you the best advice.
We would just like to reiterate that we are always here for our clients and their pets – if you have any concerns about your pet, please contact us so that we can advise you on the best way forward.
As we try to bring our services closer to normal and taking into account the recommendations of our advisory and regulatory bodies, the British Veterinary Association and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, we have updated which services we are now providing. We must continue to prioritise urgent and emergency treatment, but can now offer almost all our usual vet consults including annual vaccinations and health checks. We are still not able to offer our nurse clinics which include nail clips, weight watchers, confidence clinics or puppy parties, but will update you as soon as we are able to.
Consultations can be booked online and you will receive confirmation of your appointment immediately (please check your spam folder if this does not arrive in your inbox!). As soon as the appointments we cannot carry out currently are available, they will be added to the list of appointment types that you can book.
When you have a consultation booked:
- Please wait in your car and telephone us to let us know that you are here on the usual number, 01435 864422. We will then be able to let the vet know that you have arrived for your appointment.
- A member of staff will come to fetch your pet while you remain in your vehicle for the duration of the consultation.
- The vet will telephone you from the consult room to discuss any concerns you have, take a detailed history of the problem your pet is here to see us for and they will then conduct a thorough physical examination. In some cases, when the weather is good, they are able to do this in the car park.
- Once the examination is complete, the vet will make their recommendations and discuss the treatment plan with you.
- Payment will be taken over the phone. All payments must be made by card as we are not accepting cash at this time.
- A member of staff will then bring your pet back to your car, together with their medication.
In order to ensure the safety of our staff and maintain the social distancing recommended by the government, no clients will be allowed into the waiting room of either building. We ask that all clients remain in their cars in order not to crowd the front door and to allow those having conversations with the vet some privacy. We will continue to maintain an efficient and thorough service, as we always have. We apologise for the impersonal nature of this protocol – we hope that all our clients understand that this is to protect everyone involved while still making sure your pet is receiving the care they need. We ask that clients who are walking to the surgery please bear in mind the weather.
We recognise that for end of life consultations it would not be possible to utilise this protocol, and we would want to make sure you are able to say goodbye to your beloved pet in a dignified manner. We will discuss the arrangements for this with you when you call. Please rest assured we will be there for you, as we always have been.
We are able to hold remote consultations, although with the recent government changes these are only permitted in very limited circumstances. We will offer this as an option if the circumstances of the problem allow. There are two options:
- Phone consultation: You are able to contact reception and if they feel that a phone consultation may be appropriate, they will ask you to take a photograph of what you have called about and ask you to send it in an email if this is relevant. They will book a telephone consultation slot (the same duration as a normal consultation slot) and take payment for the telephone consultation fee. Once this has been received, it will be passed to the vet who will phone you in the booked slot. Please make sure we have up to date contact information for you.
- Telemedecine (video) consultations: In some cases, it may be appropriate for the vet to conduct an examination using video technology. If the receptionist feels that it would be appropriate for the case, they will offer this to you, take payment in advance and make the necessary arrangements with you. At the appropriate time we will begin the call and conduct the consultation via the video link.
In the event that during the course of the remote consultation it becomes evident that a physical examination is necessary, we will arrange this with you and the cost of the remote consultation will be deducted from the cost of the normal consultation, provided it is attended within 24 hours of the remote consultation. If a re-examination is attended in person or remotely within 24 hours this is charged at the usual rate. Please note that while we are utilising remote consulting where possible, your pet will need to physically be examined for most conditions.
Procedures and surgeries:
We are now offering our full range of procedures and surgeries, including neutering and dental procedures. If you would like to book your pet in, please telephone us to arrange this.
When you have a visit to our surgical suite booked:
- Please wait in your car and telephone us on 01435 864422 to let us know that you are here. All admissions appointments are being arranged for after 08:30 as this is the time our telephone lines open. A member of staff will come out to meet your pet.
- We will take your pet into the hospital and transfer them onto our leads or into our carriers, and we ask that you take all your pet’s personal belongings including blankets home with you. We love to let them have their personal items with them, but for now we will need to ask that this does not happen.
- The team member will then return to your vehicle with your lead/carrier, which we ask that you bring with you when you collect your pet in the afternoon. They will also bring the iPad in order for you to answer the final few questions and sign the consent form, and wipe it down afterwards. Please note we are not allowed to carry out any treatment without the signed consent form, so please do not leave before this has been done!
- Your pet will have their procedure done, and a member of the team will be in touch to let you know how your pet is and arrange a home time. We will also take payment and arrange any re-examinations at this stage, so that when you return for your see-home appointment, you do not also have to contact the reception team.
- When you arrive to collect your pet, please telephone the practice to notify us you are here. We will come to collect your pet’s lead/carrier, and then fetch your pet and bring them straight to you in the car.
Please see the second to last paragraph under ‘Consultations’ regarding the closure of our waiting rooms to all clients.
We are not able to offer home visits at this time. All treatment and examinations must take place at the practice. We have always recommended this as this is where we are best equipped to be able to carry out a thorough examination and any treatment necessary, but at this stage we are not able to offer home visits owing to the increased risk posed by SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, our current working practices do not allow time for home visits as our vets are needed to provide consultations which currently run all day bar lunchtime to ensure we have enough for all our patients, so we do not have any visit time slots to be able to offer. We are sorry for the inconvenience this causes, however, we can offer a number of alternative options so please do contact us so we can make a recommendation that is suitable for you and your pet.
Vaccinations and microchips
We are now able to offer all vaccinations on their due date . We are not currently recommending that any be delayed, so please do use our online booking service if you have not yet booked them in. This includes
- Puppy and kitten vaccination courses
- New pet vaccination courses for those which have not had their vaccinations yet
- All rabbit vaccinations
- All annual booster vaccinations and those all-important annual health checks for dogs, cats and rabbits. Dog vaccinations can go up to one month overdue before they need to restart, cat vaccinations can go up to three months overdue before they need to restart and bunnies only need a single vaccination so there is no ‘restart’ per say, but their immunity lapses very shortly after they are due, so it is best to get them booked in as close to their due date as possible. In cases where you have other concerns about your pet’s health or they are also due a re-examination for their chronic condition, it is best to carry these out per their normal schedule, except in cases where the health concern impacts on our ability to administer the vaccination, which the vet will discuss with you.
- Rabies vaccinations for certification e.g. animal health certificate
Where possible we will book your dog’s kennel cough vaccination at the same time as their annual vaccination (this can sometimes involve moving one back slightly and the other forward slightly). Additionally, while we can offer standalone microchipping, it would be preferable to arrange this at the same time as one of the above.
How will boosters be getting booked?
We will still send out reminders as usual. Please note if you do not usually receive a reminder (text/email), you will not be on our list to contact to catch up on any overdue vaccines. You can book your pet in for an annual booster or health check online.
Food and medication
Please order your food and medication using our online request form for repeat medications and food . It would be much appreciated by our team if you are able to use our online services as this allows urgent and emergency calls to come through and our phone lines are currently significantly busier than normal.
We will text you to let you know it is ready and include your prepayment options so that you can collect your items.
For you to collect food and medication we are operating a concierge service. Please phone us when you arrive in the car park and give us a description of your car. We will then deliver your medication to you in your vehicle. We would appreciate it if you have a passenger window we can reach through or if you are able to open the boot from within your vehicle.
Please note we are not currently experiencing any shortages in medication. The only delays we are experiencing is owing to delivery slots and days having changed, in light of the effects of COVID-19 on the supply chain. Please allow at least 48 hours for orders to be processed, and make sure to request medication in advance of running out.
We ask that you request your pet’s prescription refills as needed. Stockpiling medication (like stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitiser) only increases pressure on manufacturing and creates a more immediate shortage – if everyone carries on as they normally would, manufacturing can continue at its normal rate and the supply of medication will continue. If your pet is not due a refill, we will advise you of the appropriate time to contact us for it.
For patients with ongoing health conditions that require re-examination – these are now going ahead as usual. You can book these in online when you receive your reminder or if your medication notes that this is the last quantity we can dispense before re-examination is needed.
For flea and worming products – we are able to dispense these for pets we have seen within the last year, with enough treatment up to when we will be due to do their annual booster per the restart dates discussed above. If your pet has not been seen within the last year, please book them in for their annual health check using our online booking service in order for us to be able to prescribe these.
Please submit requests for insurance claims to be processed online. Once we have received your request we will be in touch to clarify any further details with you, and we can then process your request. In some cases we will have to request paper forms but we will notify you of this.
We have slightly reduced our opening hours, so Monday to Friday we are available from 08:30-18:00. Saturday hours remain the same from 08:30-11:00.
Other relevant items:
- In the unlikely event that you need to enter a waiting room, we ask that you use the hand sanitiser available and maintain a minimum 2 metre distance from any staff member, as well as wearing a mask
- We will use non-contact temperature monitors on any client or third party who enters the building.
- If you are suffering from any symptoms, please let us know so we can advise you of the appropriate steps so we can still provide your pet’s care.
- All delivery people are being asked to leave items outside and knock on the window or door rather than coming in to deliver them
Other services we offer to make life easier:
- If you are not sure if you need to bring your pet in, please just give us a call and we will advise you of the necessary steps.
- We can post medication out directly to you. Please note this does incur the postage charges, and all medications must be sent signed for and insured up to the value of the medication contained within the parcel. We are not able to post out any controlled substances. Please let us know if you would like to make use of this service.
- You are able to send someone else to collect items for you if needed – just give us a call to pay for the items, and let us know the name of the person who will be coming to collect them. They can then follow the food and medication protocol outlined above.
We appreciate your help and support in facing this difficult time together. We will continue to update this page as the situation changes.
Last updated: 17 May 2021
Call us on 01435 864422 if you have any questions about how we are dealing with COVID-19.