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Dec/Jan 2014


Training that Sticks 3pm Fri

Meet Emma lunch Friday

Coffee - Ben

Mental Health & Wellbeing Fri am


PR made EASY 2pm Fri

Sat mor ning

In depth Coaching All Sat pm

Don’ t forg et black tie outfit!!

Staff Development Plans Getting them right

Engaging with the Media Case studies & tips

Buying Groups Should you join one?

Nurse Talk! Introducing a new nursing feature with the BVNA

CONGRESS 2014: What does yours look like?

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Editors’ Letters


elcome to the second edition of Practice Life Magazine with a very slightly festive feel to the cover in deference to its December arrival! I hope that you received and enjoyed reading your copy of the first edition in early October. I was a little nervous about how the publication would be received; how would the two societies feel about the joint magazine; had we got the balance of news items, short snippets and longer, meaty articles right? However thankfully most of the comments that I’ve had were positive; ‘excellent’ and ‘something I will read from cover to cover’ were some. I did get one that I suppose could be considered a complaint, from a vet who had been looking forward to having only one amalgamated publication to read thinking it would save time; apparently the content was so good it had taken longer


won’t forget the arrival of the first edition of Practice Life. A couple of weeks prior to the sello-wrapped copy, I was courtside at my son’s basketball club with an anticipated hush in the air as the new season team was being announced by the head coach. A serious moment indeed, with crowds of parents, the local newspaper reporter and no less a star than NBA player John Amaechi present. Now it’s surprising how the bleep of a mobile phone incoming email message resounds around a sports hall! Thank you Libby for choosing that moment to send the PDF proof! I suppose it could have been much worse than my mild embarrassment and 24 hour disowning by my son. Imagine if Sky Sports had been there! Anyway, I hope you found your first issue to your liking and thanks for the many encouraging comments. Topically, in this edition we’ll be looking at dealing with the media. If you’ve

to get through than reading both the SPVS Journal and Veterinary Management for Today usually did! The aim of the editorial team is to continue to make the magazine interesting and relevant for all members of the practice team hence the addition of a section for nursing staff this time. We are keen to provide you, our readers, with what you want, so if you have any suggestions for future articles or features, or if you’d like to comment on anything or share an experience similar to one highlighted in the magazine please do get in touch. In the meantime, best wishes for a merry Christmas and happy New Year and I hope to see some of you at the first big event of 2014: SPVS & VPMA Congress which promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Stephanie Writer-Davies, SPVS editor

never engaged with them to the advantage of the practice, you’ve missed a great opportunity which usually will be free and gratis. Back in my radio days, the stations I worked with were always looking for community pieces, allowing a reporter to just turn up with a portable reel to reel recorder and mic (now it’s an ipad!) and today, with hundreds of locally-streamed services, broadcasting has become narrowcasting and we’ve not even mentioned social media! There’s an example on our digital magazine, of how, one Monday morning last year I got a call from BBC Radio Manchester to say they wanted to come in to the practice to talk to us about dogs and cannabis, live on their breakfast show within the hour...that was a management challenge! May I wish all our readers compliments of the season.

Ian Wolstenholme, VPMA editor

Practice Life is the magazine of SPVS and VPMA. If you are interested in joining either or both associations, visit and z December 2013 z Practice Life

Contents Editors SPVS




SPVS NEWS SPVS at FECAVA and Scubascene Preview


Ian Wolstenholme, Practice Manager

VPMA NEWS Report on SEVC and Regions Update




Stephanie Writer-Davies BVSc MRCVS VPMA

Mojo Consultancy Ltd 181 Sandpit Lane St Albans AL4 0BT Tel +44 (0) 1727 859259




Where are all the RVN’s? News from the BVNA IN THE SPOTLIGHT 18 Owen Monie from Animal Trust Veterinary Surgeons discusses his not-for-profit business model g

COLLEGE CORNER Anything to declare? RCVS Update on Criminal Convictions



VDS NEWS A reptilian campaign



WELL-BEING Creating a happy team


MANAGING PEOPLE Practice Manager Renay Rickard on staff development plans



CLIENT CARE AND MARKETING 28 Special feature: Engaging with the media. Interview with TV vet Marc Abraham and we hear from practices who’ve been there and done it!



Advertising and Sales Enquiries Libby Sheridan MVB MRCVS Tel:01727 859259 Sales Administrator Eva Lambe Practice Life is the magazine of the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Veterinary Practice Management Association. It is distributed quarterly to the members of both associations as well as a wider mailing list of veterinary practices annually. The magazine contains articles on veterinary business and management as well as other topical updates and relevant features. The information contained within these articles is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for advice from qualified professionals in the relevant field. Articles and photographs are welcomed for submission, though publication is not guaranteed and is at the discretion of the editors.

© 2013 Practice Life All rights reserved. Practice Life is edited, designed, and published by Mojo Consultancy Ltd. No part of Practice Life Magazine may be reproduced, transmitted, stored electronically, distributed, or copied, in whole or part without the prior written consent of the publisher. A reprint service is available.






BUSINESS HEALTH AND FINANCE Buying Groups: Should you join?



PRACTICE DEVELOPMENT Kickstart 2014! Fresh Ideas for Business



CPD SHARED Training the Veterinary Receptionist and Preparing for Business Partnership


CPD DIARY Special feature on SPVS-VPMA Congress 2014



WHAT’S COMING UP 46 Events listing and a peek at what’s in the next issue g


Opinions expressed in this journal do not necessarily reflect those of the associations, the editors, Practice Life Magazine or its publisher, Mojo Consultancy Ltd. ISSN 2053-1877

Practice Life z December 2013 z



Pip Ashman, Ashman Jones in Bath and Howard Brown, National Relationship Manager, Petplan Statistics do not necessarily support the premise that the UK is a nation of pet lovers. Pets per household in the US are significantly higher and we don’t do much better when compared to our European neighbours. Nor are our rates of compliance and medicalisation particularly impressive. That was the starting point for a day long discussion into the future of companion animal veterinary practice in the UK held at Zoetis headquarters on 7th November. Contributors included a selection of independent vets including a recent start up, a mature practice, two large multi-branch practices

and Willows Referrals. The corporate sector was represented by Guy Carter from Medivet and Jane Balmain, Managing Director of Companion Care. Industry stakeholders included Petplan, Hills, Henry Schein, Hazlewoods and the Royal Veterinary College. Pets at Home Customer and People Director, Sally Hopson also attended. Conclusions and outcomes from the day will be presented in a supplement to the Vet Record on 10th January and a follow up debate will be held at SPVS/VPMA Congress on 31st January chaired by Ned Flaxman.

Vet Charity Challenge 2013 – Another Massive Success Saturday 28th September saw the second Vet Charity Challenge take place at Pershore College in Worcestershire. Bathed in lovely sunshine, 55 teams of four spent the day walking, running, cycling, kayaking and orienteering along with a variety of mental tasks. So far, the charity has raised over £50,000 for three animal based charities, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, SPANA and Animals Asia. In 2012 the event raised £21,000. This year’s winners were the Overall winners, BVC Bashers from Belmont Veterinary Centre BVC Bashers from Belmont Veterinary Centre in Hereford. Sarah The Willows Large Animal team Simpson said, “We are absolutely delighted and shocked to win. We managed to get all the kayak and cycling points and as many running checkpoints we could manage. We were not bad with map reading and timekeeping and were committed to just keep going. The event was fantastic fun and great for team bonding. We all know each other a little better now and we will definitely be back to defend our title next year.” BCF Technology, Kruuse and Vétoquinol sponsored the event with support from the VPMA, Mojo Consultancy and JCA Media. BCF Marketing Manager Jason Rogers said, “The response we got for the Challenge this year has been amazing with double the number of teams we had in 2012. The practices and companies that took part have all made an incredible effort to raise such a huge amount of money. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and get into the spirit of the event.” For more information, to see the individual team results and to register your interest in entering a team or teams in the Vet Charity Challenge 2014, take a look at the website We’re delighted to introduce a brand new feature, Nurse Talk, to Practice Life, and to welcome on board the BVNA who’ll be contributing regularly to it. Read more on Page 16! -– Ed z December 2013 z Practice Life



RCVS & VN COUNCIL ELECTIONS – NOMINATIONS OPEN The nominations period for candidates wishing to stand in the 2014 RCVS and VN Council Elections has opened with the College keen to encourage all members of both professions to consider putting their names forward. Six seats are available on RCVS Council, and two on VN Council, each for a four-year tenure. Last year, for the first time in over a decade, no women candidates stood for election to RCVS Council, and the College is determined to widen participation in Council amongst the whole profession. To help veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses learn more about what’s involved in being a Council Member, the benefits it can bring and the amount of time it requires, the College has produced two short videos featuring the experiences of some existing members of both Councils and their reasons for standing ( “We have chosen the theme ‘People like you’ for these videos because people on the Councils really are no different to their colleagues across all aspects of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions. The thoughts and experiences they describe on camera will sound very familiar to many of their colleagues and peers!” says Gordon Hockey, RCVS Registrar, adding: “We need people of all ages and of varying experiences and professional backgrounds to ensure there is a healthy and diverse range of views available.” Nominations are open until 5pm on Friday, 31 January 2014, allowing plenty of time to find out more about what’s involved and to find two proposers. Read more at and

Thanks for your feedback! Issue 1 of Practice Life went out at the beginning of October, and based on your feedback, we’re pleased that we’re hitting the right buttons. Don’t forget that you can download your digital copy of the magazine to refer back to, and we’ll have a library of back issues on our website in the New Year.

BVNA REGIONAL CO-ORDINATOR WINS ‘RCO OF THE YEAR’ During the recent awards ceremony held at the BVNA Congress on Friday 11 October, Somerset & Gloucestershire regional co-ordinator, Kate King, was announced the winner of the annual Bayer Animal Health ‘RCO of the Year’ competition. Kate was presented with a prize fund of £1,000 towards future CPD meetings in her region and an additional £200 in vouchers to spend on herself. Kate said “I am totally thrilled to be this year’s winner. It came as a complete shock to me as I know how hard all the RCOs work at providing CPD for nurses in their regions. I plan to arrange a CPD day later in the year with the prize funds and so on behalf of all my nurses in my region I would like to say a big thank you to Bayer for their sponsorship of this award and the fantastic support they give us”.

Keynote speaker and RSPCA Chief Veterinary Officer, James Yeates, with BVNA immediate-past President Louisa Baker, Joy Howell from Bayer Animal Health, and RCO of the Year, Kate King.

RCVS clarifies role on new veterinary schools The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has clarified its role with regard to new UK veterinary schools, by saying that it has no mandate to control student or graduate numbers. Responding to calls from the profession that it should comment on the desirability, or otherwise, of any change in the number of schools or graduates, the College has confirmed in a position statement that it is committed to setting, upholding and advancing the standards that any new UK veterinary degrees would need to meet in order to be approved by the Privy Council, but that it has no role in capping student numbers. Furthermore, the free market and mobility of workers in the EU makes any control at the level of a sovereign state effectively meaningless with respect to workforce management. However, the College is committed to ensuring that standards are maintained, and to continue working with bodies such as the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education, which evaluates veterinary degrees across Europe. The College also seeks to support healthy debate through providing information on the state of the profession – a good example of which is the survey that it recently commissioned from the Institute for Employment Studies on job availability for veterinary graduates over the last five years. The headline results from that survey were released in the summer, and showed that increasing graduate numbers over the last five years have so far appeared to have had little impact on veterinary job prospects, with 94% of graduate respondents seeking a role in clinical practice obtaining work within six months of starting to look. The full RCVS Survey of Recent Graduates report is now available online at<>

Practice Life z December 2013 z


SPVS News A few words from

SPVS President, Adi Nell

IMPORTANT NOTICE Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons Annual General Meeting 2014 The SPVS AGM 2014 will be held at the end of SPVS / VPMA Congress, on Saturday 1st February at the Celtic Manor Resort, Nr Newport, Wales, starting immediately after the lectures finish at approximately 4.15pm. The election of Officers and Councillors will take place at the AGM and all SPVS members are invited to take part in these elections.

It’s been a very busy few months for SPVS! Our second Diagnostics Day was a great success and the Technology Day looks like it’s going to become a regular fixture in the CPD calendar. With over 70 delegates attending, it very much appeared to tick the boxes for networking, quality CPD and valuable time for one-to-one chats with the exhibitors. Congress next year also looks like being a sell-out event and yet another opportunity for members of SPVS and VPMA to exchange notes and further their cooperation in making practices as successful as possible, in all ways. The big news for SPVS is the proposed conversion of our Society into a Company Limited by Guarantee. I’ve written to each and every member individually and the responses have been very positive. If Council approves the idea, we’ll bring it to the AGM at the Celtic Manor Hotel, Newport for a final vote. As you know, we’ve published the results of our excellent annual Salaries Survey. It made interesting and, at times, worrying reading; the prospect of more vet schools opening raises even more questions. In raising concerns about these new schools, there is a danger that the profession could be seen as simply trying to protect its own interests if we don’t explain ourselves clearly. The reality is that questions must be answered about how the quality of veterinary training can be safeguarded and how EMS, for example, can be provided meaningfully for an ever-expanding student body. It’s been a very busy Autumn for congresses: BVNA, BEVA, BCVA, the Northern Irish Congress and FECAVA have already taken place as well as BVA and LVS. The Officers team and I have met with our counterparts from BVNA and BVA and have other meetings scheduled over the coming weeks and months. The general spirit within the Divisions, and between them and BVA, seems very positive at present and we look forward to working with our friends and colleagues to further our profession as far as we can. I’m looking forward to the coming months and to our next Council meeting – and beyond that, to seeing you all in Newport for Congress next year! z December 2013 z Practice Life

Nominations for Councillors and Officers need to be received in writing, duly proposed and seconded 15 days before the AGM, Friday 17th January. Such nominations should contain the signature of the nominees and their proposers and seconders. All proposers and seconders must be members of the Society.

Fees Survey 2013 – Questionnaire Yes, it’s that time of year again and we would like to encourage as many vets and practice managers as possible to complete the 2013 Fees survey Questionnaire. As with any survey, the more responses the more significant the data, and we would be very grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey or go to and follow the links to complete online.

SPVS Dates For Your Diary 2014 Jan 30th – Feb 1st SPVS & VPMA Joint Congress Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales to be followed by the SPVS AGM March 15th – 22nd – Snowscene at the Hotel Kirstberg, Lech, Austria with presentations on Dentistry and Managing People. For more information or to book visit the SPVS website or contact the SPVS Office April 14th & 15th – Officers and Council Meetings if members would like to raise any points please get in touch with the Hon Secretary, Tom Flynn via the SPVS Office May 30th – June 6th – Scubascene in the Southern Red Sea with presentations on Dermatology and Management. For more information or to book visit the SPVS website or contact the SPVS Office.

For 2014 CPD course details see the SPVS and SPVS/VPMA Events website:



Andrea Tarr, from Veterinary Prescriber, an independent online source of information on veterinary treatments asks: Could you help develop independent information on veterinary medicines?

Scubascene 2014 30th May 2014 - 6th June 2014 Luxurious Live-aboard Diving and CPD in the Southern Red Sea The SPVS scuba diving week includes up to 4 dives per day, with the chance to complete advanced PADI qualifications, and 15 hours of CPD on Dermatology and Management.

The Diving For divers who would like to experience a slightly more ‘untouched’ Red Sea the itinerary of this trip is perfect. Divers will have the opportunity to explore a variety of unique dive sites on the St. John’s and Fury Shoal plateaus which offer big drop-offs overgrown with gorgonians and colourful soft corals.


Dermatology: Filippo de Bellis DVM CertVD DipECVD MRCVS Why are my patient’s hairs falling off and why does the ear nightmare keep coming back again and again? Stop splashing about and do a deep dive into the most common dermatological problems, in a series of interactive talks, covering the approach to alopecia, pododermatitis, facial diseases, otitis and pruritus and a more in-depth discussion of allergic skin diseases, dermatological emergencies, management of otitis, endocrinopathies and the skin, dermatophytosis in dogs and cats, Malassezia dermatitis in dogs and cats and topical therapy in veterinary dermatology. Management: Peter Gripper BVetMed MRCVS, Managing Director of Anval Ltd Does management seem like a perpetual wrestling match with an octopus? These presentations will look at management conundrums in context of the current veterinary marketplace with specific emphasis on critical control points for the practice, objective business planning and creating a ‘practice toolbox’ with tools to teach tactics to your team. Please contact the SPVS Office for further details or to book.

How do you choose between the many NSAIDs available for use in dogs (there are 11 authorised in the UK)? Are COX-selective inhibitors any more effective or safer than non-selective NSAIDs? Is a wash-out period necessary when switching NSAIDs? These are some of questions considered in the next Veterinary Prescriber review, which looks at NSAIDs for dogs with acute and chronic musculoskeletal problems. The article also includes a list of all the NSAID preparations authorised in the UK and a section on what to tell clients about NSAID therapy. Veterinary Prescriber articles aim to be useful in clinical practice by integrating published evidence with clinical opinion. A key feature in the development of Veterinary Prescriber articles is circulation to a range of commentators. These typically include topic specialists, practising vets, companies that market mentioned drugs, and other commentators depending on the topic (e.g. regulatory experts, pharmacists). Commentators help to develop articles by raising points about the interpretation and presentation of evidence and by providing personal insights from having used treatments. Their opinions and insights help put the evidence in the context of clinical practice and can sometimes suggest a way forward for practical clinical decision-making when there is no formal evidence to guide practice. Veterinary Prescriber is looking for practising vets to get involved in developing articles by becoming regular article commentators. If you are interested in becoming involved as a commentator or want to suggest ideas for future articles, get in touch by email on: veterinaryprescriber@ You can also go to the web site and sign up to receive alerts about future articles. The next article we’re preparing is on stem cell therapy and its applications in veterinary medicine. This will be an update for non-specialists.

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SPVS UPDATES Stephanie Writer-Davies reviews what your council representatives have been up to The SPVS Councillors have, as usual, been working hard during the past few months, to enhance the services that the society provides to the membership as well as ensuring that SPVS continues to be represented at all levels in the profession. One of the biggest projects with which SPVS is heavily involved at the moment is the RCVS review of the Practice Standards Scheme; there is a SPVS representative on the panel for each of the six groups that have been formed to discuss the development of the proposed new modules. At the time of writing, all the groups have had at least one meeting and the six councillors, Andrew Parker, Colin Thomson, Gudrun Ravetz, Richard Killen, Hazel Bentall and Stephanie Writer-Davies, who attended have fed back to the rest of SPVS Council to ensure that that any areas for concern are highlighted so they can then be raised at the groups’ second meetings. SPVS is the only society to have a representative on each group and it is a testament to Council’s PSG representative, Anna Judson’s efforts that this happened. It is also a reflection of the importance afforded to SPVS views by those leading the PSS Review at the RCVS. Hopefully we’ll all manage to ensure that the revised scheme is workable in practice! Peter Brown, SPVS Hon PRO has been busy analysing and producing the results of the SPVS Salaries Survey and has dealt with publicity associated with these. With the Salaries Survey completed for this year, Peter is now turning his attention to finalising the SPVS Fees Survey ready for distribution to members. Of course, these surveys are only as good as the information from which they are created; the more responses we receive, the better and more representative the surveys are. We would be grateful if as many of our members as possible participate in the surveys to help keep them the sought after resources they currently are. CPD Officer, Brian Faulkner, has given a huge amount of time to the SPVS VPMA courses both in terms of organising them as well as giving presentations and representing the society. We aim to have at least one council member attending each of these courses and Tom Flynn, Hazel Bentall and Sue Jennings have been recent volunteers, making sure that the courses are well received and deliver what the delegates hope for. The 2014 CPD Programme is being finalised by Brian at the moment and it promises to be another year of courses that are useful for and relevant to day to day life in veterinary practice; details will soon be available on the SPVS VPMA Events website. The organisation of Congress 2014 continues to occupy Nick Stuart and Scubascene makes a welcome return to the CPD programme courtesy of the efforts of Sue Jennings. SPVS also continues its presence at the Veterinary Defence Society’s Recent Graduate Reunions; these provide opportunities to interact with some of the newest members of the profession, offering advice and support as well as, hopefully, giving a good account of the society which will undoubtedly become far more relevant to the graduates as their careers progress z December 2013 z Practice Life

and they look to take on more senior roles with potential managerial challenges. Hazel Bentall and Sinead Armstrong have attended the last two events and they, along with Karmen Watson, Cat Curtis and Gudrun Ravetz have provided support to recent graduates by helping with CV reading. Cat and Gudrun have also taken calls from the recent graduate support helpline and Cat has been busy organising the ever popular Lancaster Seminar for next year. In addition, Councillors have been involved in meetings with other bodies related to the veterinary profession including the Association of British Insurers where the issue of fraudulent claims was high on the agenda and AVHLA where the changes to Official Veterinary Surgeons’ training and the introduction of revalidation were the main topics discussed; again Hazel Bentall made time to attend on SPVS behalf and Karmen Watson, the council VBF representative attended a recent meeting of the VBF. Of course, it is important that SPVS maintains good links with other veterinary societies and to this end Sinead Armstrong represented the society at a meeting at the RCVS about the purpose of the College and Colin Thomson attended the Yorkshire Veterinary Society’s 150th Anniversary Dinner. More formally, SPVS Officers have had Joint Officers meetings with BSAVA, BVNA, VPMA and BVA, and dates have recently been confirmed for meetings with Officers of the RCVS in January. And finally a small group of volunteers from Council with help from a professional website design service have worked hard to update and improve the SPVS website. The new site was launched at the very end of September with the same address, and we hope you’ll appreciate its more current ‘feel’ as well as find it easy to navigate and use. There are links to the various events and CPD programme; bookings can be made on-line in this way. And of course there is also a link to the Practice Life website!

the job of a SPVS As you can see from all this activity, but boring, Councillor is busy, varied and anything s involve food although, since many of the meeting 3-course a or h at some level, be it a buffet lunc the waistline! If dinner, perhaps potentially bad for n and having being involved in the wider professio s of practising the opportunity to represent the view you might be ng vets in this way sounds like somethi for Council. If interested in, please consider standing for details of you’d like to know more about it and etary, Tom Secr Hon how to apply contact the SPVS Flynn via the SPVS Office.



SPVS takes their CPD to FECAVA 2013 in Dublin Nick Stuart reports…

SPVS went to Dublin in November with a full day on the Psychology of Veterinary Practice presented by Brian Faulkner. I attended the day along with 50 other vets from across Europe and picked up useful tips to take back to my own practice. Brian brings to his training days a combination of his own experience of having set up 4 successful veterinary practices, an MBA and a degree in psychology. He also coaches in individual practices and has seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t. His talks are always lucid, entertaining and informative and this was no exception. He simplifies the business of running a veterinary practice into achieving four outcomes: clinical resolution, client satisfaction, financial resolution and team harmony and happiness. He also goes into the detailed psychology of success, comparing and contrasting individual mindsets that encourage or impede the confidence and resilience required to ensure you reach your personal potential. When it comes to ensuring your business reaches its potential, Brian identifies two key areas: your reception and your consulting room. You may be the best surgeon in the country with fantastic backroom facilities but if you don’t get the front end right, your practice may be successful, but it will never achieve excellence. Brian cites simple rules for excellence during consultations and at reception. Take the consultation first. This is the power house of the business axis where the opportunity for profit is made or lost, and yet how many business owners really know what goes on in each of their vets’ consultations? Brian’s Colourful Consultation model divides the consult into five distinct and essential phases: the client phase, the patient phase, what he calls the PDS link, the pivotal decisions and finally the business finish. The client phase involves listening for both clinical and on-clinical information. This must link to a well-conducted and well-articulated clinical exam. The PDS link converts symptoms

Speaker Brian Faulkner into strategies; P stands for problems, D for differential diagnoses and S for strategies. Brian points out that whilst there are literally hundreds of different techniques, there are only three strategies to treat a sick patient: the reactive strategy (treat a presumptive diagnosis and see what happens), the proactive strategy (perform a diagnostic test to rule out or confirm some of the differentials) and euthanasia when appropriate. Brian describes the deliberations about which strategy to pursue as the ‘pivotal decision’ of the consultation. He cites four P’s which clients need to know about in order to make this decisions: pain caused versus pain relieved by each strategy, prognosis, price and practical considerations. Brian also advocates making an assertive recommendation about which strategy the vet believes is most suited to the situation. He identifies two behaviours which increase the ratio of diagnostic workups a vet conducts - always putting the proactive option on the table and secondly recommending it when you believe it is genuinely warranted. Once the decision has been made Brian then warns of the danger of allowing your client to disappear in the ‘Bermuda triangle’, that space between the consultation room and the veterinary reception. He demonstrated

the benefit of accompanying the client to the reception with respect to increasing the rate of dental bookings as well as re-check consultations. Brian also brings his psychological approach to help better understand the relationship between staff and clients. He describes the effect of ‘Icebergs’, alluding to the fact that most of us make decisions based on subconscious beliefs, values and assumptions. He demonstrated how various words and phrases which clients use reveal what they may be thinking as well as their opinions about the options available to treat their pets. This is crucial information with respect to achieving genuine client satisfaction. Some of the talks covered the veterinary reception. Brian recommends that 60% of a diary’s capacity are booked by clientdriven consults (primary consults and vaccinations), and these are booked in by your reception team. The reception team must have the skills to convert phone calls into appointments. They are also responsible for ensuring that clients are made to feel respected and comforted in distressful situations – yet are still asked to pay! All these receptionist behaviours are crucial to the business profitability and it is essential to have effective systems in place as well as invest in decent reception training. Brian will be repeating his Colourful Consultation and Colourful Receptionist training days across the country as part of the 2014 SPVS/VPMA CPD programme. Look out for details on the events website and catch him if you can.

Practice Life z December 2013 z

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VPMA News Update from

Regional Co-ordinator,

Renay Rickard

MEET YOUR REGIONAL ORGANISERS If you are not in touch with your local regional group and would like to get more involved, please contact the VPMA Secretariat.

This quarter has seen a lot of activity amongst the regions, with meetings organised from the far south-west right up to central Scotland. Hope you managed to get along to one. Details are being finalised for some upcoming meetings so keep your eye out for events in your area. We would like to welcome Mark Harwood to the regional organiser team, who will be covering the London area. A number of the regional team will be attending Congress in January so come and say hello. We will make sure that we are easily identifiable! We’ll also be having an RO meeting there, so do send in any feedback in advance of this, if you can. And for anyone setting up a meeting, Suzanne Headington, one of our new RO’s, has these tips: • Be organised! – Keep a list of potential contributors and the topics they can cover • Collate a venue list & speak to attendees to find out where they use for meetings and what would work for the future • Get there early to try out all the equipment (even when I did, there still wasn’t enough time!) • Don’t try to put too much into the sessions. Better to allow time for lots of questions and debate, especially where you have interesting speakers. • Be flexible with timings, but always finish on time. • Enjoy it!” Thank-you all for supporting your regions, it’s such an important part of the VPMA. We look forward to seeing you all at Congress. Regards, Renay VPMA overall Regional Co-Ordinator

YVONNE SHAW Central Scotland Tel: 0787 925 4399

RITA DINGWALL East Sussex Tel: 01435 866058

GILLIAN KIDD Scotland Tel: 01408 622217

HELEN SANDERSON Oxfordshire/Wiltshire/Berkshire Tel: 07765 338607

PAULINE GRAHAM Cumbria Tel: 07803 228720

CLAIRE BAKE Co. Durham Tel: 01388 602707 SUSAN LUNN Stoke on Trent/South Staffordshire Tel: 01543 424100

DENISE WHITHAM Herts/Beds/Northants Tel: 07837 058155 MELVYN WILKINS Gloucestershire/South Wales Tel: 07887 895274

JULIE BEACHAM Buckinghamshire Tel: 07710 317310


SUZANNE HEADINGTON South West Tel: 01242 680000

MARK HARWOOD London Tel: 01242 680000

RENAY RICKARD Cornwall/Devon Tel: 01208 872254

MEET MARK HARWOOD New Regional Organiser for London “I’m delighted to take on this role. Being a Director at Hazlewoods, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors in Gloucestershire, all my clients are veterinary practices... and I wouldn’t have it any other way! We have a veterinary team of around 20 people looking after over 200 veterinary practices across England, Wales and Scotland, but I’m particularly excited at taking on the London area for VPMA. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be starting plans for my first meeting, so watch this space. Hazlewoods are going to be exhibiting at SPVS-VPMA Congress in January, so come along and say hello.”

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A few words from

VPMA President,

Helen Sanderson Dear Members, Welcome to your December/January Practice Life. We’re delighted that the feedback following the first issue was really positive. Please make sure that you pass it round the surgery for everyone to read, as I am sure all your team members will find something of interest. We’ve been very busy over the past couple of months. We have held several regional meetings, including our first ever equine-only meeting which was a great success. More to follow! Along with these, we have continued our work with the RCVS and have been very involved in the discussions around the Practice Standards Scheme. Carole Clarke has worked tirelessly on our behalf on PSS for a numbers of years and sadly, is standing down as VPMA representative from January. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for all her hard work. I was delighted to be invited to SEVC in Barcelona this year and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it for any of your team members (if you’ve got spare CPD budget after coming to our own congress, that is!). The management streams were exceptional with world-renowned speakers, including the famous Marty Becker; a full report can be found in this issue. VPMA were also represented at BVNA, BCVA, BEVA and BVA. I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very warm welcome to all the new presidents for these associations. Last, but no means least, if you have not booked your place at the SPVS-VPMA Congress 2014 at the exclusive Celtic Manor Resort in Newport then hurry! Following on from our very successful event last year, places are going fast. We have secured some exciting speakers and I am especially delighted to be running our first ever Equine Management stream (more details can be found inside). Our Masquerade Ball on Friday night is not to be missed; so ladies and gents get your gowns and suits out and I look forward to seeing you there in all your finery! Best wishes, Helen Sanderson VPMA President z December 2013 z Practice Life


President and Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Berkshire RO Helen Sanderson held the first of a series of Equine-Management focused meetings on 1st October in Lambourn...

Horses are my passion, and the VPMA has many members who come from equine-only or mixed-with-some equine practices. Despite popular belief, equine-based businesses are not immune to the economic downturn, as many of the Horse charities will testify to, with numbers of horse owners unable to run to the expense of keeping them. So it was with this in mind that I organised my first equinebased VPMA regional meeting in October. The attendance was excellent, proving the need for our support in this area. Speakers were Susie Blackburn from Merial and Mark Harwood from Hazlewoods. Susie spoke about the challenges of equine practice and what we could do to limit the impact of change in the equine industry. She made a very interesting point, which was that while we often speak about the client journey in small animal practice, we don’t tend to think about it in equine. But it’s an area where we should be trying to do better; for instance, we do reception skills training for our receptionists. But how many equine clients phone the receptionist with queries? Many will phone the vet direct on their mobile. How are the vets then answering their phones, what is their voice mail like? I personally know my vet’s message is awful and I have mentioned to him how bad it sounds! Susie also spoke about the new equine benchmarking system that Merial are setting up to measure KPI’s. Come to Congress if you want to find out more about this! Mark spoke about key financial trends, fee to drug ratios and poor charging and its impact on the practice finances. He outlined how to ensure that charging is done properly: how to check vets’ invoices before they are sent out, as well as working with your staff to show them the final profit out of a £120 bill paid to the practice. He also discussed the debt issue which is notoriously high in equine businesses. I’m looking forward to hosting my next equine-based meeting in February which looks at dealing with insurance and how to best manage the vet who operates outside of the practice on calls.



VPMA Editor Ian Wolstenholme reports from the Southern European Veterinary Conference, Practice Management stream held in Barcelona in October There’s no doubt that if you have to hold a gathering of the world’s vets, nurses and practice managers, the bustling city centre Fira de Barcelona expo centre is a superb choice. The 2013 SEVC once more did not disappoint and with an added reason this year, that of VPMA’s new magazine editor, as well as for my personal CPD, I had the opportunity not only to listen to some powerful and dynamic presenters, but also to chat to them in the VIP Lounge. Technology has allowed a new dimension to this 2D review and I hope you will take the trouble to type the links at the end into your web browser and actually hear some of the latest practice management theories from around the globe. So what was on offer in a stream put together by Dr Ernie Ward? In his words, it was a “roster of rock stars”, though whether or not Bill Schroeder, Alison Lambert, Marty Becker, Jeff Werber and Fritz Wood would be happy with the comparison is not for me to say! There are plenty of high performing clinics in the United States and the strategies of customer care, methodology and clinical know-how, are always worth emulation in part by those of us in the UK who don’t have multi-million dollar facilities to tempt our clients with. Noticeable over the past few years of participating in SEVC, is the huge emphasis on the perception of value even before setting foot in the clinic. As Fritz Wood indicated in his opening lecture, a practice is never better than its worst receptionist. This is show-time....this traditionally reserved profession is now thrust into the hospitality business where the client experience needs to far exceed their expectations. The word ‘recommend’ has barely found its way into British veterinary speak and it’s already outdated as irrelevant in lacking

VPMA President Helen Sanderson with speakers Dr Marty Becker (left) and Dr Ernie Ward (right)

urgency and conviction. As Mr. Wood noted, “... anyone in practice using a lesser word than ‘need’ to a client should be sued for malpractice!” It must be very nice to work in Beverly Hills and have clients like Magic Johnson and his dog on the books (at least you could save on debt collection bills) and this is the practice lifestyle of Dr “Hollywood” Jeff Werber. In reality, this glitz and glamour pales into insignificance with this most genial of speakers, who does not wear the embroidered white coat for consultations, but rather polo shirt and khakis which get pretty messed up with dog slobber from adopting a traditional “down on the ground” vet approach with his patients. Whilst (I imagine) finance matters would not be a real issue, ironically, Jeff concentrated his sessions on topics such as the “new” economy and working

within the framework of clients’ budgets, together with utilising the exam room to maximum efficiency. He also discussed how to deal with negative Internet reviews (which are a huge problem in the US thanks to professional complainants and Yelp!) and even dangerous liaisons in the workplace. Ordinarily it would have been rather tricky for an English guest to have followed such motivational presentations, but our very own Onswitch superstar Alison Lambert made some European eyebrows rise a little with net promoter scores, driving footfall, cost effective promotion and how to embrace the price checkers. It seems like only yesterday that there were “oohs” and “ahhs” when anyone dared to discuss social media in a veterinary context and I recall only few hands in the air a couple of conferences ago when asked how many practices in Europe had any sort of web or social media presence. Most of Saturday morning was given over to Bill Schroeder from In Touch Practice Communications in Chicago. A former US marine and private investigator, Bill paced the lecture hall and looked at the big three – Facebook, You Tube and blog. One bombshell was a comment that there is now evidence that clients are starting to draw parallels between a vet’s clinical skills with their social media skills. Practices simply cannot ignore it or they do so at their peril. He cited no fewer than twenty five ways to keep your clients engaged. Because I’m mean (plus I want to introduce many into our own practice) here are only a couple of them: use more video (see our feature on this in this issue) and use Facebook’s Graph Search – Google it! If Dr Marty Becker is a “rock star”, he is probably the Sir Elton John of the veterinary world, appearing on National TV’s “Good Morning America” and dubbed “America’s Veterinarian”. To have

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The author boogies the night away with President Helen Sanderson

Marty appear, without the aid of PowerPoint, at SEVC was nothing short of a coup and the theme permeating throughout his four talks was “taking the pet out of petrified puts pets back into practice”, or, how creating a fear-free visit to the clinic is good business (see our In the Spotlight case study in the September issue for how vets Watkins and Tasker go about this!) By now you may have seen in this summary that 2013 more than ever has proven the need for practice management to become more aligned with clinical management. Some may find this a really hard concept to grasp, believing that there should be a distinct division between vets and managers at all times and me-thinks in the UK this will certainly be true. It’s a point which I put to stream committee chair Dr Ernie Ward and you can hear his and the other speakers’ comments on my interview pieces below should you wish. SEVC is a hugely successful gathering of the practice teams worldwide. With its longstanding affiliation with the NAVC, attendance is definitely worthwhile. And it’s worth repeating the consistent quality of CPD, food and networking opportunities, not forgetting the Grand Fiesta against a beautiful background of the Barcelona culture. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Asociacion de Veterinarios Espanoles Especilistas En Pequenos Animales (AVEPA). I encourage you to give it a try... where vets meet in Europe. To hear more, please click the below links: Bill Schroeder Jeff Werber Fritz Wood Marty Becker Ernie Ward Joaquin Aragones z December 2013 z Practice Life

Congratulations to VPMA Regional Organiser for Wales and the West Midlands, Melvyn Wilkins, who recently tied the knot with fellow VPMA member Mandy on September the 21st. Melyvn is one of the longest standing VPMA members, having joined in 1994 and in that time worked on Council, as sub-editor of Veterinary Management For Today and regional organiser for the South West, all the while working as an account executive with Petplan. Mandy, who is a veterinary practice manager, originally met Melvyn at VPMA Congress at Hinckley in 2001! Our very best wishes to the happy couple.


ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 2014 The Annual General Meeting of the VPMA will be held at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport on Thursday 30th January 2014 at 5.00pm. Full Members must advise the Honorary Secretary in writing of any business to be raised by them at the AGM at least 28 days prior to the meeting. Please submit any items of business to be raised at the AGM to:Honorary Secretary, VPMA Limited 76 St Johns Road, Kettering, Northants NN15 5AZ

Tel: 07000 782324 Fax: 0870 836 2250

R A JOB OR N? LOOKING FO TICE POSITIO C A R P A L IL TO F embers that VPMA m f Don’t forget ed Section o ifi ss la C e th e can post in mpletely fre co te si b e w the VPMA cretariat ntact the Se o C . e rg a ch of tails. for more de ified www.vpma

Nurse Talk 16


Meet the BVNA council and officer team for 2013/2014

In association with


BVNA raises over £2,500 for The Horse Trust

BVNA council for 2013/2014 was ratified at BVNA congress during October; all 12 seats are taken by RVN’s from across Scotland, England and Wales. The BVNA council team are: • Kirstie Shield DipAVN (Surgical) RVN MBVNA – President • Fiona Andrew RVN MBVNA – Vice President & Honorary Secretary • Louisa Baker RVN MBVNA – Senior Vice President • Helen Ballantyne BSc (Hons) RVN MBVNA – Honorary Treasurer • Samantha Morgan DipAVN (Med/Surg) RVN MBVNA – VNJ Executive Editor • Rachel Lumbis BSc (Hons) PGCert RVN MBVNA • Maz Hopcroft BSc CertEd V1 RVN MBVNA • Lucy Hayne RVN MBVNA • Donna Lewis RVN MBVNA • Harry Bailey RVN MBVNA • Matthew Rendle RVN MBVNA • Jill Macdonald DipAVN (Surg) RVN FHEA MBVNA (not pictured)

The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) was delighted to support The Horse Trust as its chosen charity of the year during 2012/2013. During the past 12 months, BVNA Council members and regional co-ordinators have held numerous fundraising events and a grand total of £ 2,506.51 has been raised, including proceeds from the BVNA Congress fund-raising events. BVNA senior vice-president, Louisa Baker, said: “The BVNA is very grateful for the fantastic support that we have received in aid of The Horse Trust and would like to thank everyone for their contribution in helping such a worthy charity.”

Council discussions... To bring you up to date on council discussions, during our November council meeting the following items were part of the agenda. A change to the BVNA constitution to include Student Voting rights was ratified during the AGM in October. BVNA council wishes to acknowledge their student members and encourage them to vote and feel part of the BVNA. Our student members are the Veterinary Nursing profession of the future and it felt only fair to include their thoughts on shaping council. Louisa Baker is planning events for next year’s VN awareness month. Louisa and other members of the council team will be attending public events and county shows in a bid to promote Veterinary Nursing. We hope that many more participants will take part during May 2014 to raise public awareness of the Veterinary Nurse.

Student reflective essay competitions and abstract poster presentations were gratefully received during this year’s BVNA congress and we hope to encourage more participants this year. Our Education Development Co-ordinator, Debbie Gray, and the education committee are working together to develop a new Wound management course run by the BVNA. We hope to launch this next year along with continuing our successful CPD roadshows around the UK. President Kirstie Shield is working closely with the redevelopment of the RCVS practice standards scheme and BVNA feels very privileged to be asked to contribute. Lucy Hayne has been invited onto BEVA’s education committee so that we can offer support for the Equine Veterinary Nurse members.

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Stephanie Writer-Davies, SPVS Hon Editor and Veterinary Nursing Liaison Representative asks

Where are all the RVNs and what can practices do to help? On October 10th three members of the SPVS Officer team met with five members of the BVNA Officer team at the BVNA Congress venue in Telford. It was a very friendly and useful meeting during which a lot of the discussions centred round Veterinary Nurse Training and retention of veterinary nurses in practice. There is no doubt that there is a shortage of qualified veterinary nurses in the UK with a significant number of practices having no qualified VNs amongst their staff. This appears to be a result of a combination of too few students completing the VN training and then, unfortunately those that do achieve the qualification not staying very long in the job. The closure of RCVS Awards with City & Guilds taking over as an awarding organisation for the Level 3 Diploma in Veterinary Nursing means that colleges now have a choice of working with either C&G or Central Qualifications. Many colleges already have links with C&G in particular and this has resulted in more of them choosing to offer the veterinary nursing course. However, despite, the RCVS figures showing an apparent increase in the number of approved training practices it would seem that not all of the students enrolling are able to secure placements and thus can’t continue with their training. In other words there is a net shortage of practices able or willing to be involved in VN training. It isn’t clear why this is the case. • It may be that students who have completed their training have subsequently become employed as qualified RVNs at their training practice resulting in that practice ‘going dormant’ as a result of being fully staffed. • Practices may consider cost a barrier; in reality this shouldn’t be the case. The remuneration levels that businesses are required to pay to students undertaking a modern apprenticeship (such as VN training) are set by government and the current apprenticeship minimum wage is only £2.68 per hour for the first year. It remains the same for any apprentice under 19 in their second year though for those aged over 19 at that stage it does increase to the national minimum wage relevant to their age at that time, however, since the majority of VN trainees start the two year course after GCSEs they are likely to be under 19 for the bulk, if not all, of their apprenticeship. There are course fees but these need not necessarily be met by practices. Bearing in mind the low minimum wage requirement though, even if a practice contributes to or chooses to pay the course fees, this expense is offset by how little the trainee has to be paid. • Practices may worry about the time cost in terms of having to make an experienced VN or veterinary surgeon available to provide coaching for the trainee and assisting with completion of the progress log but in reality a lot of the training can be ‘on the job’ and it is often the case that senior staff members get a sense of satisfaction from helping a junior trainee’s confidence improve. In Scotland there appears to be a particular problem as a result of funding issues which means that there are very few colleges offering VN training. Lantra is trying to secure funding for modern z December 2013 z Practice Life

Picture: courtesy of Steph Writer-Davies apprenticeships and BVNA is supporting this. It would be useful to know how many veterinary practices in Scotland would be prepared to be involved in VN training should college courses become available and SPVS has offered to help in this area by telephoning Scottish practices and asking the question; should you get a call from the SPVS Office it would be very much appreciated if you would be prepared to give your opinion. If it can be shown that there is a need and market for veterinary training then it is hoped that the Scottish Government may reconsider providing funding. BVNA’s figures suggest that the average ‘working life in practice’ of qualified VNS in only 6-7 years with nurses citing low wages, family commitments and lack of career progression as reasons for leaving. Considering the level of commitment required by these people to complete their training this is very sad. Unfortunately it is a fact that the veterinary profession isn’t generally a ‘family friendly’ one; flexible working may not be easy to manage and out of hours work can make it particularly difficult. In an ideal world, practices could try to match shifts to the available workforce but, of course, that frequently isn’t possible hence a proportion of RVNs decide not to return to work after maternity leave. Additionally, for those that might wish to return, the cost of childcare can potentially take a significant percentage of the relatively low wages that RVNs often receive, making it ‘hardly worthwhile working’ and being another cause of them considering leaving the profession. In summary, the Veterinary Surgeons and Veterinary Nursing Professions are inextricably linked and rely on each other for support and I would encourage any of you reading this whose practices are not already involved in VN training to re-consider and think about becoming Training Practices and helping some of the enthusiastic young people in the country who are keen to become RVNs achieve their ambition. It is also well worth looking at ways of encouraging qualified nurses to continue with their career by increasing job satisfaction, improving career progression, working hours and conditions and valuing the contribution they make to veterinary practice.



Each issue, ‘In the Spotlight’ takes an in-depth look a particular practice. This issue, Owen Monie, a Director at Animal Trust Veterinary Surgeons in Bolton shares his practice journey and insights with us.

A nimal Trust

in the Owen, you set up your practice Animal Trust in 2012, as a Not-For-Profit company. Tell us a little about that journey, how not-for-profit is defined in the context of a vet practice, and why that business model particularly appealed to you. After qualifying I worked in a couple of really great mixed practices, which was a lovely opportunity to experience the diversity of mixed veterinary practice and I still miss the cow work. Sadly though, as the partnership I aspired to was not forthcoming I decided to establish a practice from scratch. I left that practice a few years later when the practice had grown to 6 vets. A few months later I set up Animal Trust, with Gareth Haines, who I was at a Cambridge with. We wanted to establish an alternative business model that was animal-centric within an increasingly corporate veterinary landscape. I think that very few people enter the profession to make money, yet that seems to be an increasingly prominent objective in many practices. We wanted the business to have a pricing structure that allowed uninsured or less affluent owners to access high quality care and we also wanted to build a company that could offer a decent career structure for our staff. We took quite a lot of legal advice on how best to do this and eventually set up

Animal Trust as a company limited by guarantee. This means that there are no shareholders, all the staff including the Directors are paid a set salary by PAYE, and all the profits that Animal Trust makes are retained within the business for future investment for the benefit of our patients, be that affordable pricing, better facilities or more highly trained staff.

of mouth recommendation, and the feedback on these is that we are normally recommended because of quality of care and not because of affordability.

What do you consider your biggest success so far and what factors contributed to it? Perhaps the biggest success was taking the conceptual idea and developing it in to a company that works. There was quite a lot of scepticism when we set up as to whether removing the consultation fee would improve access and was sustainable. Yet the last 18 months have shown that it is possible to allow free access to a vet: while that may have a large financial impact, it does not make a practice unviable.

How have your clients received the service? Does the lack of a consult fee make it more difficult to subsequently charge clients for additional work up or procedures? We do get some clients who expect the entire treatment to be free, although we are very clear with our charging from the outset. In general we have found clients more willing to undergo investigations than in a traditional model. A lot of our clients will have a set budget available – if they come with expectation of spending £50 at the vets, and they haven’t been charged a consult then that £50 is available to spend on a blood test, ear swab or whatever. If half of that £50 had already been spent on the consult fee, then those investigations may well be cost prohibitive.

What has been your biggest challenge and what have you learned from the experience? One of the big initial challenges we faced was getting across the message that we are about pushing high standards of care, and not about providing a budget service. I think inevitably some new clients thought that the cheaper prices would be reflected in the level of care. This has resolved over time as we now get virtually all of our new clients by word

What are the advantages to building your business using your charging model? Any (potential) disadvantages? The single biggest advantage is enhanced access to care, not only through seeing patients who, in some cases, have owners that would not otherwise be able to take them to a vets, but also by offering affordable treatments. We have been able to help owners of animals with serious or long-term conditions

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access procedures such as TECA, or chemotherapy that would otherwise be outside of their reach. The other major owner benefit is the feel good factor as a vet – sometimes clients will immensely value what we can offer. The lady whose 3- month old pup was facing euthanasia without porto-systemic shunt surgery, or the owner of the dog who had been feeling guilty because they couldn’t afford the price quoted at their previous vets for cruciate surgery, are two recent examples of this. From a conventional business owner view-point there would be few advantages – you have to work harder, for less money and be able not to worry about the figures! How do you respond to criticism from other practices that you are making it difficult for them to charge, as they see it, ‘properly’? While some practices operating within more traditional business models offer an outstanding service and achieve marked benefits for patients, I also feel that some practices that charge ‘properly’ have a charging structure that is prohibitive for clients who are not insured or affluent. I believe that as a profession we need to accommodate care for animals whose owners are not in a strong financial position. This is a corner stone of what Animal Trust is about – providing an inclusive service that is open to all and putting patients first. If a practice finds it difficult to charge properly in the light of a lower cost practice, then they either need to look at their client base and see if their charging model is appropriate for it – if the clients can afford the practice prices, they are unlikely to be price sensitive, and unlikely to move to Animal Trust just because we are cheaper. If the pricing model is indeed appropriate for the demographic and clients are still complaining about cost, then the practice needs to assess if they are providing value, or whether the progress in the care and service a client receives has not kept pace with price inflation. Do you have any particular approach

when it comes to staff recruitment as a result of your ethos/ business model? Does it make it easier or harder to find staff? We have a lot of sick animals that need medical and/ or surgical treatment and so we tend to look for vets and nurses who are driven to develop good technical skills. I don’t know yet whether the model assists us with recruiting staff, but I think many of the vets we have value working for Animal Trust once they are here. Although the job is busy and hard work, it is clinically interesting. Our vets and nurses also work a 4 day week and have the opportunity to travel around the world for funded CPD to help them progress their careers. Tell us about your team structure: how do you handle internal communication. Any tips? We have a team of senior vets who have monthly meetings and in many ways act like traditional partners – they provide clinical direction, develop clinical initiatives and control the training and investment budgets. There is then a team of more junior vets who are generally focused on developing their skills and abilities. We have regular vet and nurse meetings for more general issues, but a lot of the day-to-day communication is achieved in the twice daily clinical rounds that the vets and nurses attend, and via our internal IT messaging system. We are currently developing more sophisticated internal communication systems, and as for tips on this, all gratefully received! You provide your own Out of Hours care. Does the cheaper Emergency Fee ever lead to abuse of your service by non-clients? We are proud to offer our own emergency service, and I think it is an important part of patient care. In general the service is patronised by our own clients, who pay a £50 out of hours supplement. This is enough to stop people using the service for convenience but generally not so much that clients opt to wait rather than seek care, which I think can be a huge welfare issue. If clients from other practices call, we z December 2013 z Practice Life


recommend they use their own vet, as we do not have access to their records. On odd occasions, out of necessity, we have seen unregistered clients and in this case we charge an additional registration fee. What are your plans for the next 5 years? Tell us a little about your vision for your practice. We would like to see Animal Trust gradually expand its capabilities and be able to offer full service care – from 1st opinion through to a full range of specialist procedures. We would also like to develop our services in terms of client education and disease prevention. For example, we are currently investing some money with an external behaviourist putting together advice systems for the most common issues so we can try and assist clients at an early stage with issues. There are a number of welfare initiatives we would like to promote and develop, some of which may be commercially beneficial to the practice and others which will be purely for animal benefit. In terms of geographic expansion we are also opening a new 8 consulting room/ 3 theatre clinic in east Manchester in the New Year and we may open other clinics in due course – but we think the success of Animal Trust is best measured by the quality of service it will develop rather than the size it reaches. Given your experiences so far, would you encourage other budding practice owners to consider the not-for-profit model? I think that depends on what practice owners want – commercially it doesn’t make sense, but as a job, I find it more satisfying than when I was earning a six figure salary in a traditional partnership.


College Corner

ANYTHING TO DECLARE? Some of you may admit to watching Emmerdale – and, if so, you may have seen the village’s vet, Paddy, suspended from the Register following a criminal conviction for common assault on a policeman. OK, this was fiction – although we did assist the production team to ensure that the storyline was as accurate as possible. Such cases come to the College very rarely, although they do come. There are around 25,800 members on the Register and out of those, by law of averages, some will come a cropper with the law – even though we might like to think this would not happen in an esteemed profession. So, how do we protect the public – and the reputation of the profession? The first step is to ensure that we know about any instances of convictions, cautions or adverse findings, so, since September, we have been accepting disclosures from veterinary surgeons as part of a voluntary period, before a mandatory requirement to disclose commences in 2014. The need to notify us of such matters on an annual basis as part of your registration renewal each March was introduced as part of the Code of Professional Conduct in 2012. However, we allowed a bedding-in period for the Code before enforcing the requirement. The Code says: Veterinary surgeons, and those applying to be registered as veterinary surgeons, must disclose to the RCVS any caution or conviction, including absolute and conditional discharges and spent convictions, or adverse finding which may affect registration, whether in the UK or overseas (except for minor offences excluded from disclosure by the RCVS (Section 5.3). It’s not just those already on the Register who need to comply. From 2014, new registrants will also have to disclose any criminal convictions, cautions or adverse findings that may affect registration (for example, those from university fitness to practise procedures).

Backdated to 2006 Those of you already on the Register (including overseas and nonpractising categories, as well as UK-practising) will only be required to disclose criminal convictions that have occurred since April 2006. Some of you may be pleased to hear that fixed-penalty motoring offences are excluded. Some might ask – and perhaps the public will be among them – why has this requirement not been in place before? In fact, the veterinary profession has fallen under the Notifiable Occupations Scheme since April 2006, which means that serious convictions are already passed to the College by the police. However, this does not cover overseas veterinary surgeons who may have had a criminal conviction while working outside of the UK (the overseas regulatory authority may not

always mention them to us when someone applies for registration), and not all convictions are notified to the College. The new requirement also covers cautions and adverse findings, such as those from other regulatory bodies.

Consideration process So, you have a criminal conviction and declare it. What happens next? The disclosure will initially be considered by the Registrar, and, if necessary, referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee. In some cases, the matter will be referred on to the Disciplinary Committee to decide if the nature of the caution or conviction affects the veterinary surgeon’s fitness to practise – in which case the usual sanctions of removal or suspension from the Register could apply. The ultimate aim of the measure is to increase the public’s confidence in the veterinary profession, and to safeguard animal health and welfare. The requirement brings the veterinary profession into line with many others – including registered veterinary nurses, who have made such a disclosure since their Register was introduced, in 2007.

Advice line The new requirement makes sense from a professional and public protection point of view, but we do recognise that it may raise concerns amongst some members of the profession, so we have launched a dedicated advice line to assist affected veterinary surgeons. You can call 07818 113 056, from Monday to Friday, 11am-4pm, and speak to one of three RCVS solicitors who can advise on the process and the possible outcomes of disclosure. If you can’t call during those hours, please email us on and we can either deal with your questions by email, or arrange a time to call that suits you. Detailed information regarding the requirement, including examples of the kinds of convictions that may be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee and a declaration form, can be found on

Code app If the requirement for disclosure came as a surprise to you, why not download our new Code app so you can study the Code at your leisure… it’s free, can be used offline and has an excellent search tool. Visit to find out how to download the app for iPhones and Android devices. Practice Life z December 2013 z

VDS News



A Reptilian Campaign B

ill peered into the waiting room for a sneak preview of his Friday evening clinic and was disturbed to see a young, heavily tattooed, couple taking turns to ‘cuddle’ something that would not look out of place in Jurassic Park. One glance in the appointment book confirmed his worse fears: the reptile, a Crested gecko, was booked in to see him, accompanied by the less than illuminating description suggesting it was ‘lethargic’. Bill beckoned the besotted teenagers into the consulting room, a simple request apparently, but causing them considerable anguish, as it involved temporarily separating them from their social networks, as they switched their smart phones off. After his less than probing examination, Bill was none the wiser regarding the source of the beast’s lethargy, but did manage to glean that the gecko was known as Geoffrey and the owners’ love for the creature was matched only by their devotion to body art and each other. Recalling his head nurse kept a number of unusual nondomesticated creatures, Bill made his excuses and went to track her down. She jumped at the chance to see Geoffrey and was soon deep in conversation with the owners, speaking in a language Bill could barely understand, but he did pick up some pearls of wisdom and eventually suggested they increase the vivarium temperature, together with administration of oral fluids, via syringe. Growing in confidence he propounded pompously that the source of most reptile problems was inadequate husbandry and recommended referral to a specialist, should Geoffrey fail to improve. Forty-eight hours later the distraught owners called to report that Geoffrey’s lethargy had reached new depths and it was clear, if the Monty Python team had ever bothered to write a dead reptile sketch, he was sadly destined to play the leading role. The tearful owners went on to explain that they had spoken to the reptile guru at a local pet shop who believed the advice to increase the vivarium thermostat was inappropriate as Crested geckos, unusually for this group of animals, preferred cooler temperatures. Bill, after a quick call to a friendly exotic specialist, accepted his little peccadillo and although Geoffrey’s days were doubtless always numbered, he waived his fees, as a gesture of goodwill. The following morning, a receptionist brought Bill’s attention to the practice’s Facebook site. It would be fair to say that up until this point, Bill had been totally unaware the practice’s marketing armoury included the use of social media, but what he read now was not destined to bring clients flocking through their door. The couple had made numerous malicious comments, essentially accusing Bill of advising them to cook their beloved Crested gecko. With his receptionist’s assistance he followed links within their messages to several reptile forums where his status as Geoffrey’s ‘murderer’ had been posted for posterity. Bill naïvely assumed these could simply be erased from the practice’s z December 2013 z Practice Life

site, but noting the receptionist’s blank expression, upon being asked to hit the delete button, he decided to phone a friend instead, the VDS. Bill learnt that the scenario he described was becoming a regular problem for members, growing in tandem with the phenomenal success of social media sites. He was disturbed to learn that regrettably, once you have attracted the ire of a disgruntled client online, there is surprisingly little you can do. A price we pay for our freedom of speech. The consultant explained that the communications Bill considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or plain false are actually subject to a surprisingly high threshold before the authorities will prosecute, so the police rarely become involved. The Defamation Act 2013 was created to protect reputations, but a significant trading loss or substantial harm either to the business, or an individual, must be demonstrated before any action is taken. Ignoring the posts is a reasonable option, as is encouraging bonded clients to post more positive messages, as research suggests the impact of negative social media campaigns is small long-term. A more proactive approach is to contact Facebook, Twitter or the moderator of internet forums via links on the websites to report offensive postings and request the content is removed. If all else fails, consider taking legal advice about a Pre-Action Letter. This is correspondence sent in anticipation of court action, in which one might, for example, refute the allegations made, request the posting is removed and even seek an apology. The letter should make it clear that if the request is declined the practice will sue for defamation and not many posters risk calling your bluff. Bill was grateful for the instant, practical advice and the teenagers subsequently demonstrated little resistance when he asked them to remove the posts or risk legal action. The Society has produced a guidance note providing detailed information for members on how to counteract malicious social media which is available from the VDS website or Knutsford office and as ever, if in any doubt, please do not hesitate to call the VDS for advice.



Creating a happy team... VBF’s top 10 tips on creating a happy Veterinary Team


he vast majority of calls to Vet Helpline concern employment issues so VBF has asked some experienced practitioners and managers for their advice on creating an effective team with a high level of wellbeing.

1. Get The Recruitment Right Time-strapped managers of veterinary practices sometimes make the mistake of recruiting the ‘best of a bad lot’ and hope it will work out. Attitude is key and asking the right situational behavioural questions at interview will enable a manager to assess whether the candidate is going to fit in well. Marcus Buckingham’s book FIRST BREAK ALL THE RULES gives excellent advice about selecting and retaining the right staff for a team. If you don’t select the right candidate at interview it is unlikely that you will be able to rectify this just by providing training even though a good candidate can be made excellent with the right training. However, it’s unlikely that person is a poor performer across the board so it’s probably just a question of the person not being the right fit in your organisation. If your organisation is big enough and you have sufficient flexibility you can raise their performance by moving them into a different role. Otherwise, helping them to find a new direction rather than forcing them out or hoping that a square peg will eventually fit into a round hole will empower them and keep their enthusiasm for a veterinary career alive. 2. Accept That Management Is A Dynamic Process & Requires Support From Your Team A manager is often really effective with some of the team and less so with others. That’s why 360 degree appraisals and other feedback to the manager are so important. You can only be an effective manager with the support of your team and you need to know if, for example, your slowness at passing round paperwork is affecting their performance. Share information back to them too, particularly business information, and train them to understand what you are sharing. 3. Encourage Assertiveness Many practices have found it to be very worthwhile sending all new employees on an assertiveness course. Some managers might fear it will turn their staff into demon pay rise negotiators but in fact when workers are able to state their needs clearly and calmly they are happier, more effective and easier to deal with. ASSERTIVENESS AT WORK by Ken & Kate Back is useful for all staff including inexperienced new team members and managers.

“Praise delivered at the right time makes a significant difference to performance. Don’t hold back... even if it feels as if you are being effusive, it is probably not perceived as such.” 4. Have An Effective Health & Wellbeing Policy Callers to Vet Helpline who have suffered from stress and depression often comment on the difficulty of getting time off to seek help and suffer additional stress when forced to undertake contract negotiations at a time when they feel too unwell to continue working. A health and wellbeing policy which is clear about what happens if staff need to stop working and an agreed strategy for supporting those who are returning to work after sickness can be an enormous aid to recovery. It’s not a manager’s job to know everything about the lives of the staff but by discussing work related issues as soon as any problems surface it will sometimes become evident that an employee’s performance is being affected by events in their personal lives. Here the manager can help by being flexible about time off if appropriate but he needs to be careful not to create a culture where outside issues are used to legitimise poor performance. If he can help the person to have a workplace which provides an enjoyable and fulfilling respite from whatever is happening at home and can help the person to carry on working and turning in a satisfactory performance, the staff member is probably more than capable of dealing with their personal problems themselves. 5. Play to Employees’ Strengths As Marcus Buckingham advises in FIRST BREAK ALL THE RULES, sometimes it’s just not worth trying to fix weaknesses and it’s better to just get someone else to do it if a staff member is not good at something. Wellbeing research has shown that Practice Life z December 2013 z




the most satisfied people are those who identify their strengths and follow them. Many new veterinary graduates find it difficult to accept that they are allowed to have a weakness and feel under tremendous pressure to do everything perfectly. Sometimes a new graduate in practice will feel a complete failure when a procedure doesn’t go as well as they had expected it to and this can spiral into catastrophic thinking about the end of their career. Managers need to instil in vets awareness that they can’t be good at everything and that it is OK to have an area of weakness. Although many new graduates appear on the surface to be very confident, managers need to make an effort to know the person and be aware of how they really feel about their performance at work.

6. Get Your Attitude Right & Give Yourself Time Management is a job in itself and not just an “add on” to be fitted in the 10 minutes before the next examination or on a Sunday evening. A manager needs time to do the job and time to give to other people. If you try to do everything you have done before and then on top of that cram all the job appraisals, feedback and leadership, you are setting yourself up for failure. A CEO of the World Health Organization once said: “When you are up to your neck fighting crocodiles it’s hard to remember you came to drain the swamp in the first place.” Managers don’t necessarily need to be the highest revenue earners in the practice or the most senior clinicians and having the right attitude and time to listen is often more important than management knowledge. Veterinary practitioners regularly work in new locations isolated from friends and family so having someone to turn to who is interested in how that person is settling in or coping with the stresses of veterinary life is vital. New graduates are looking for fairness, understanding and respect. “Staff are humans with feelings, concerns and worries both work based and personal. They aren’t machines to be barked at, pulled in every direction or deserted to muddle through.” 7. Try to Remove Obstacles to Positivity Factors such as organisational policies which cause dissatisfaction, uncompetitive salaries and uncomfortable or poorly equipped work environments are roadblocks to maintaining high levels of motivation. The only way to find out what the barriers are is to ask the team. 8. Promote Focus and Direction Within the Team Teams that fully understand the purpose of what they do and are clear what is expected of them are usually more engaged. The mission statement should mention the intention to make the workplace an enjoyable place to work where staff are treated with respect. 9. Set Clear Goals & Give Adequate Praise Praise delivered at the right time, after clear goals have been set and achieved, makes a significant difference to performance. z December 2013 z Practice Life

Don’t hold back on the praise. Even if it feels that you are being effusive it is probably not perceived as such. Research on managers across the health care professions found that while managers rate themselves as 4.4 out of 5 for giving staff praise, their staff rated the amount of praise they had been given as 1 out of 5. In Kenneth Blanchard’s THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER he warns against managers “catching people doing something wrong”. Don’t wait until someone makes a big mistake – be close enough to catch them when they start to drift off. Discussing the problem immediately one to one and coupling the discussion with praise for what they get right will normally be enough to correct their performance and will be well received. Your responsibility as a manager is to help the practitioner grow and to keep the spark of enthusiasm that most vets start out with alive.

10. Use the Profession’s Support Services The Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme provides free and confidential help professional mental health and addiction advice to any-one concerned about an employee. The National Co-ordinator of the Programme also provides post-suicide support to practices and family members. Vet Helpline is also available 24/7 to offer support and both BVA and SPVS run schemes for recent graduates to help ease their transition into working life. 

More information about the support available to the veterinary profession can be viewed at A sticker with the contact number and email address for Vet Helpline’s new anonymous email service can be ordered from



SPVS/VPMA’s campaign for better understanding of mental health


tudies in recent years have suggested that vets in the UK are significantly more likely to take their own lives than the general population. This is a sobering truth about modern practice and it is not confined to vets. The Veterinary Surgeon’s Health Support Programme has also seen an increase in cases of veterinary nurses and practice managers experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. So what causes this? What is it that makes practice life apparently so stressful? Some of the possible reasons cited by the Veterinary Benevolent Fund on their website include increased business pressure and debt, the availability of accessible drugs leading to addiction related mental illness, and the lack of soft skills among veterinary staff, making them less able to deal with conflict from clients or colleagues. Mental health is most definitely a management issue and arguably also a health and safety one. It was this approach that first led Sean Gillgallon, H&S Manager for CVS to introduce training in mental health to his management team. He believes that if the managers understand more about mental health and if they themselves are mentally well, they will be better managers who are not only better at spotting mental health, but are also less likely to be the source of stress and anxiety among those they manage. Sean approached the Oxford Mindfulness Centre at Oxford University and worked with them to develop a Mindfulness programme for his managers. Mindfulness is a form of meditation with its roots in the Buddhist tradition, but without any religious connotations. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy has been tested in clinical trials and found to be at least as good as using anti-depressants for preventing relapse after depression. It is now approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and increasingly available on the NHS. Oxford University’s Mindfulness Centre (OMC) were pioneers in the use of MBCT and a spin off from the Centre, The Mindfulness Exchange (TME), applies the science behind MBCT to everyday life, with particular application to dealing with workplace stress. Sean and the team he has been working with at TME will speak at SPVS/VPMA Congress as part of our Mental Health and Wellbeing. Other speakers include Brian Faulkner who, as well as being a vet, has a degree in psychology. He will describe the mindset that is all too common among vets, particularly young female vets, that can lead to feelings of worthlessness and then depression. Rory O’Connor, mental health worker and national co-ordinator of the Veterinary Surgeons’ Health Support Programme, will talk about his work and give

some pointers to managers to help them recognise the signs of mental distress among the staff they manage and in themselves. He will also advise on how to deal with colleagues you suspect may be experiencing mental health problems. This is a subject that we intend to return to in Practice Life as it is so important. Our next edition will look more closely at mental health, including an interview with Rory O’Connor. We intend to lead a campaign to increase mental wellbeing and reduce the stigma of mental health within the profession.

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Developing Your Practice Team


t’s a key factor that in the management of any business, to ensure growth and success, staff need to keep pace with that business’ development. Veterinary practice is a prime example. You risk losing valuable, well-trained and motivated members of your team if they are unable to find challenges to increase their skills and forward their career. At the other end of the spectrum, you find that you are wasting time, energy and resources dragging members of the team along with your vision, if they really feel under-confident or are afraid to learn new things or embrace change. The engagement of your team is vital in any business development plan and needs to be thought out as an integral part.

Therefore, before you devise and implement a team development plan, you need to have a clear idea as to how you wish to take your business forward. You then need to share this information with them, ideally in a very specific format – for example: “Within twelve months, we want to boost the profitability of the practice by improving cash flow, decreasing debts and reducing stock wastage by 10%.” “Within six months, we want to increase the number of nurse consultations by 20% and increase compliance of worming and flea treatments by 10%.” “Within three months, we want to improve continuity of care by implementing systems that ensure a patient will always be booked back to see the same vet for re-examination of the same condition” Communicate these goals to your staff, ensuring they have a clear understanding of targets and most importantly, why z December 2013 z Practice Life

they are important. In larger practices with multiple branches, having a regular strategy meeting that involves representatives from each department is useful; vets, nurses, receptionists and the customer care team should all have a voice. Having input at an early stage in formulating development plans from everyone ensures time is not wasted. Ideas can be bounced between different departments, and this often stimulates even more ideas and input. People feel involved and their opinions valued. Once you have a clear vision of where you would like to go, you need to ensure that everyone is clear on how you are all going to get there. My favourite way of explaining this is that “everybody gets on the same bus, we arrive safely at our destination without crashing, and we are all still singing the same song when we get there!” Ensure that you work at the right pace and that you do not lose anyone along the way. Before you can look to develop your team members, it is vital that you know where they currently sit. You will need to have solid recruitment, induction and performance review processes already in place to help you with this information. This will ensure that you will already have a good idea of training needs and then personal development plans can flow out of these. If you use the practice development plan alongside these individual development plans, your team will be able to relate to these together and this helps to engage them in the process. It is important within the development of any team that regular feedback is given on progress towards the required goals. How this information is given will depend on the methods best suited to the construction and size of the team, but it must be inclusive. Do not be afraid to share quantitative information i.e. facts and figures and explain their significance. Vague negative feedback, hearsay and rumour will undermine the compliance and engagement of the team. Praise and encouragement is far more motivating, and if there are problems, then solutions should be sought together as a team. As the driver of the bus, having a clear vision for the development of the practice, and having the enthusiasm and involvement of your whole team, will ensure that when you get to your destination you will have retained staff who might have been tempted to move on elsewhere, and swept along and developed those who may have been holding themselves and the team back. Renay Rickard RVN CVPM is the Practice Manager of a 13-vet mixed practice in mid Cornwall. After qualifying as a VN in 1989, she progressed through the ranks to Head Nurse, before becoming Practice Manager in 2004. She gained her Certificate in Veterinary Practice Management in 2010 and sits on VPMA Council as Regional Co-ordinator. She also works for Duchy College in Cornwall as a Veterinary Nurse Course moderator and clinical coach trainer.



Case Study – Newly qualified RVN


et’s use the example of a newly qualified RVN. Normally this is a point in their career which is one of the most important for future development. I always ensure that I, or one of my senior nurses, has an informal chat with the RVN after they have qualified, and the initial excitement of finally wearing that hard-earned bottle green uniform has settled down a little. This is not the end of their training as a qualified nurse, of course. But it is the start of a career that now needs to be developed as they grow into their role. They can often feel daunted and under-confident as the level of supervision that they have grown used to during their training will start to decrease (think about the first time you drove a car alone after passing your test!). So it is important to start to devise a development plan at this point. One of the clear advantages of training veterinary nurses within your own practice is that at this point, you will already have a solid base on which to build your development plan. You will know the areas in which they are confident through their NPL (Nursing Progress Log) and at the same time, they will have a clear understanding of your own practice culture and your vision for the future. Taking one of the objectives outlined above, a key area in which the nurse can play an important role in is the development of nurse clinics. You should already have a clear idea of the possible clinics and which parts of the client base you will target for these. These will have been worked out at your team strategy meetings where you’ve had input from the vet team, the nurse team and customer care team on how you can all work together. You might have decided on a weight clinic for example, or a post-operative care protocol, a nutrition advice service or clinics to manage dressing changes. Agreements are in place that the veterinary surgeons are supportive of the nursing teams’ role in this and that clients will be referred to them, which is vital for the clinics to grow. Having all of the basics in place in advance will mean that your development plan for this nurse will be more effective. Based on this information, a formal development plan can now be agreed mutually. Further training needs are assessed and written in, along with what support and resources are required from the practice. The nurse is encouraged to develop their own ideas within this plan as this will ensure they are engaged with the process. An action plan with clear timings and deadlines is also agreed with commitment from yourself to ensure that it is monitored regularly, and the pace of development meets the needs of both the nurse and the practice. When we come to review the action plan, it is important that information is available to measure its level of success. At the beginning this may just be a tick box to show that specific tasks have been completed. But as time goes on, it will be necessary look at facts and figures for supportive evidence e.g. compliance statistics and sales figures, so ensure that these are available from the beginning to give a baseline against which progress can be measured. Giving the nurse access to this information will help

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Writer-Davies

“The nurse is encouraged to develop their own ideas within this plan as this will ensure they are engaged with the process.” them to gauge how successful their development plan has been so far, and where the areas are that need more focus. Developing the nurse’s strengths and interests within the framework of the bigger development plan for the practice, and providing consistent monitoring and opportunity for discussion, will help to ensure success. It will also help to develop the nurse’s role within the practice, hopefully moving them toward more senior positions or taking on specific responsibilities that will help retain them within the practice team. It’s important to remember to engage your existing senior nursing team in the development of junior staff. The former can sometimes feel threatened and insecure by the emphasis on development of newly qualified staff, so involve them in the process, share information and pay adequate attention to their own development plans. And remind them that they are all on the bus together! Practice Life z December 2013 z



Case Study Petplan Practice Manager of the Year, Cery Lawson-Tancred from Golden Valley Veterinary Hospital, shares her approach to staff development Staff development is a very interesting element of practice life and one that can have huge consequence on the business if we get it wrong. However, in my experience there are two ‘problems’ with individual staff development in any business. Firstly not all staff want to be ‘developed’ and secondly keeping a core of competent well-motivated people who remain in place over a long period is essential to the success of the business. Golden Valley Vets believe that staff development is the mirror of practice development and the two have a totally symbiotic relationship. Rather like Health and Safety, any sort of practice

sometimes with a break for travel or children. We are also a training practice and ‘use’ the vet and nurse degree students to keep us up to date with the latest thinking whilst they in turn are learning from the more experienced members of our team. With every member of the team having a right to be heard and an obligation to contribute, at whatever level, this is definitely a win-win situation. With staff development mirroring the practice development it is very easy to determine where specific issues need to be addressed. The team approach gets the maximum benefit from ‘shared experiences’ so the practice will often

“Every member of the team has a right to be heard and an obligation to contribute, at whatever level...” or staff development, is an ethos that has to be lived and breathed if it is to be successful. In the current educational climate the individual has been made responsible for their own training costs and the responsibility for maintaining CPD is an individual one rather than one for the practice. So the focus at Golden Valley Vets is more on providing the correct environment to enable all this knowledge to be put into practice in an individually rewarding way. Besides the actual physical equipment needed to do the job this really involves building and monitoring teams and providing the practice with a culture where we are always looking to improve the way we do things. It requires a process of actively encouraging staff participation in researching and developing new ideas. At Golden Valley Vets this is achieved by frequent staff meetings and multidisciplinary

teams established to look at different possible developments and reporting back to the full group. On a day to day basis within the teams there will be many different skills and talents, but all should have a commonality of purpose focused on doing the very best they can for the client, either by themselves or with the help of others. Even covering a twenty-four hour shift pattern, with the correct person in place to head the team, any issues can be very quickly identified and rectified if a mutually supportive culture has been developed, and individuals know that they will not be scapegoated if they speak up. With a team of vets, nurses and receptionists this also makes life a lot easier for the Practice Manager who then only needs to manage three people and ensure the teams are working together! Golden Valley Vets have several members of staff who have been with the company for many years, z December 2013 z Practice Life

send several people to the same event, or we will arrange in house training that involves a wide range of staff and we then discuss what, if anything, needs to be changed. For example, a very successful session on suturing techniques for vets and nurses was followed by a whole company gettogether to train for the launch of our new pet health scheme, designed in-house. Covering another issue, the reception team did an exercise in telephone answering techniques that involved ringing other businesses and assessing how they felt about the experience and what we could do to improve as a result. Simple things that all contribute to creating a dynamic environment in which staff can determine their own development. At Golden Valley Vets the plan is to learn together, go forward together and prosper together through the combination of business and staff development.




with the Media

We caught up with practitioner and TV Vet Marc Abraham, who told us about his love for media work and how practices can get out there and grab the headlines... Marc, tell us a little about your background, what you do, and why and how you got involved with the media. After qualifying from Edinburgh University in 1995 I entered mixed practice, veering towards small animal as time went on. My first teetering steps in the media and realisation of the power of engaging with the local community came about when I subsequently set up an emergency clinic in Brighton, servicing the out-of-hours needs of about 13 clinics in the area. During this time, I found that I loved representing my clinic, getting out and about, and becoming the veterinary voice of the community; visiting schools, as well as writing a weekly column for the local paper. I quickly became aware of the high regard that a vet is held in the community, and what a powerful tool that energy can be for business too. I loved being able to educate and give advice to pet owners and accidentally found myself on the path to a media career before I knew it, invited out of the blue to appear on Channel 4’s It’s Me Or The Dog with Victoria Stilwell. After a while, juggling TV work and working nights at the emergency clinic proved very tiring and after 5 years, I sold my partnership, throwing myself into more media work including a TV series for Sky called My Pet Shame, and appearing as resident vet regularly on both This Morning and BBC Breakfast, five series of the Paul O’Grady Show and on The Alan Titchmarsh Show too, even a few shows in the States – all wonderful experiences – totally out of my comfort zone but loved it. During this time I was also working as a locum to fill any gaps. Does the effort pay off? In what terms would you measure this? In terms of connecting with the local community through media engagement? Definitely. Personally though, doing the larger scale national media work isn’t necessarily as rewarding business-wise as getting to know the locals immediately around you. After a while I started to miss regular practice so applied for a ‘proper job’, which was starting at another local vet clinic but this time as an assistant. I was tasked with setting up a new branch from scratch and to build a client base. With limited advertising budget (and a Grade II listed building, with no overt signage allowed!), I fell back onto my prior PR knowledge and experience and set about raising awareness of the new clinic through media engagement, working with a free and effective PR strategy, as well as basic social media tools. And it paid off very quickly. I can certainly measure it in

“...Send out the message that you care... A vet practice never has to worry about going out of business if it gets this important message across!” terms of growth of my client base because they all come in talking about it! And the very positive benefit is that you get exactly the kind of clients you want: engaged and very loyal. Is there a particular strategy that practices should follow when looking at promoting themselves through the media? Should they have some kind of marketing plan or is ad-hoc better? Or a combination of both? I didn’t have a very strictly defined plan. But I made a very conscious effort to get out there proactively with positive messages about pet ownership and animal welfare. This also had the desired effect that when local press or radio station needed someone to talk on any subjects around these areas, I was easy to find and their natural choice. And then that’s a positive loop, reaching even more people. What type of media should practices focus on? Is print media (such as local newspaper) the way to go? Or social media? Making yourself the authority on all matters relating to pets is the most important, so choose your media according to this with what works best for you and your environment. Securing a column in your local newspaper really helps. You don’t need to be the best writer as sub editors can help shape it for you. Columns will now almost always appear online too making very useful links for adding to your social media channels, practice website, blogs, etc. Both education and a show of empathy are paramount, and there are so many exciting and creative ways that you can do this. We made school visits a key part of our strategy; a weekly school visit lasting 45mins to an hour, talking about pets and how to best care for them. I’ll take along animal games, and we’ll have Q&A’s on pet care, looking after wildlife, pet obesity etc. Practice Life z December 2013 z


Feedback from parents has been great, and it costs us nothing but time. Visits are often advertised in their school newsletter, and in the waiting room we have a school visit notice board showing pictures of the schools visited. Clients always look at this, and it builds trust; it’s sending out so many positive messages about the practice, it’s a great endorsement, show of empathy, and massive sign of investing in your local community – all extremely powerful stuff. Social media can be very useful too – but it has to be done right otherwise it can prove extremely detrimental. I’d say that a Facebook page is essential for any practice. We’re so lucky as vets to have an inexhaustible supply of material with lots of good news stories and interesting cases. Photos of pets taken in the consult room are fab: every owner loves their moment of glory for their pet. I also think that in our modern times, Twitter is vital and will become even more important and influential. You don’t have to tweet a lot, but it’s important to get as many followers as you can, increasing brand confidence and making your brand worth a lot more to both prospective and existing clients. There are many simple and free ways to ensure you build large numbers of good quality followers quickly, adding invaluable ‘social media currency’ and improving your practice’s profile. Local radio can also be useful. Make sure you know your stuff and have in front of you a list of key messages you need to get out. Always make sure you get your sound bite. How could a busy practice overcome the barriers to the time involved in any sort of media engagement? Pick someone with passion to do it. Perhaps they’ll volunteer to do it at lunchtime or at quieter times? Maybe persuade your boss to book out a specific appointment slot each day for a Facebook or Twitter update. Or do it just before consulting at the start of the day. While I think you need a presence on Facebook and Twitter, you don’t have to go overboard. Remember it’s the quality not the quantity that counts, but it does need to be regular. Remember once you commit you have to keep it up so it’s better to start slowly. Posting on Facebook once daily is more than enough. For Twitter daily is also fine to start with. There are many ways of making your presence on Twitter engaging and impactful. Having input on print media, and social media like Facebook and Twitter allows you to reach a very broad demographic. Local press is usually read by 30 year olds and up; Twitter and Facebook by both younger and older generations. Print media such as a weekly newspaper tends to hang around longer. There’s a wait for it. It carries huge amounts authority and is worth more as your content is being endorsed by a local established trusted voice. What sort of stories do the press like to see? How do you grab attention? Start with looking at the season and what’s relevant: fireworks, Christmas dangers, etc. People are fascinated by pets and love you sharing health tips/advice. You can put in photos of the ‘pet of the week’ (with owner permission). All owners love this. Your local newspaper is worth its weight in gold. It sends out the message that you care. It’s about showing expertise, professionalism, and empathy towards animals. A vet practice never has to worry about going out of business if they get these important messages across! z December 2013 z Practice Life


What are the watch outs? If you’re unsure whether to post/write something or not, don’t do it. People are easily offended. Trust your gut instinct or ask someone what they think before you do it. When posting pics of pets, it’s tempting to get hung up on getting written permission from the owner to do so, but in my experience, it ruins the spontaneity of the moment and in my opinion can have negative impacts on the trust you’re trying to build. Just ask them. What’s the easiest way to start? Take the plunge and give it a go. With social media, people think they need to be witty or smart. But speak naturally and from the heart. Be true to your brand. If it’s not perfect it doesn’t matter. You will have such a small following at the start that mistakes don’t matter: and you can always delete. Try it once a day to start with and you’ll soon build confidence. Enjoy it. Could you give us a few examples of ‘campaigns’ that went well for you? There’re two that spring to mind and really show the power of engaging with media. One is my own PupAid campaign promoting responsible pet breeding and raising awareness of the horrific practice of puppy farming. PupAid’s government e-petition now has well over the desired target of 100,000 signatures meaning it will be discussed in Parliament. It’s the biggest pet welfare petition of all time and I’m extremely proud of that. Another example is the ‘Parvo Pups’ story which outwardly shows the true welfare benefit of social media. We had 8 pups brought in that had been dumped just before Christmas infected with parvovirus. Tragically two died on admission and the remaining 6 were now in isolation. After blogging about them on the practice blog, and then tweeting that link including Virbac’s new @ParvoAlert hashtag we immediately got a tweet back from their PR team, offering us a donation of over £2000 of antiparvovirus treatment. As a direct result all 6 remaining pups lived. The story got picked up by all the local press (front pages) and then by the national media. I have loads of other examples, but not enough space here. Very happy to discuss them over a pint if anyone’s interested! Marc is happy to be contacted with practice PR and/or social media enquiries: visit



CASE STUDY Andrew Prentis, from Hyde Park Vets on his media career and learning to adapt to the internet


t all started way back in 1988 or thereabouts, when as a junior vet at the RSPCA Animal Hospital in Putney I received a call from Headquarters: would I go along and do a short piece on Blue Peter about spaying cats? Live in front of 8 million people and weirdly transported back into the living room of my childhood but on the wrong side of the screen, I was utterly terrified and there’s a part of me that remains humiliated by the experience to this day. I sat there in my best brightly coloured knitted-by-mother jersey (alongside a middle-aged man who also appeared to be wearing a brightly coloured knittedby-mother jersey), and gibbered on fairly incoherently about stitches and post

operative discomfort whilst trying not to mention the word sex. But I survived it, and later on realised that I had actually quite enjoyed it, so when other requests for comments or appearances came along, I generally said yes. I did a short media training course which was well worth the time and effort, and soon enough appeared to have the beginnings of a media career, based on the fact that if you ask someone questions about a subject they know about and enjoy, there’s a reasonable chance they’ll have something interesting to say. No more than that. Years on, with my own practice, the internet revolution has happened and we have to embrace it. Apart from anything else, we know – because we ask – that most of our new clients find us on the net, so it makes sense to be out there as much as we can. We signed up to Facebook and Twitter. Being old and grey, I still can’t really get a handle on Facebook but all the young things in the clinic manage that for me and look on pityingly as I dither helplessly over walls and timelines. We Tweet because we’re told we should. I remain unconvinced of its genuine value to the business, as most

of our input is focused on Tweeting and looking around for other people to follow in the hope that they will also follow us, rather than actually reading what anyone else Tweets. And I suspect it might be the same for other Tweeters. But it’s quickly done, it can be fun and it engages members of staff easily. It may have some benefit. We blog but nowhere near as often as we should, mainly because we’re so busy running a veterinary clinic. We try to make changes to our website regularly, we send out Press Releases (using a commercial service) when we need to and we email our clients as and when we feel we have something interesting or useful to say, also using an external commercial service. If someone asks for a comment or article, we write it, even if it’s done at the last minute. We come up with ideas for items on the pet friendly local radio and offer to go along for a chat and we write letters to the press when we have enough time or bile. I figure it’s all worth it, and if it sprinkles a little stardust on the everyday of spaying cats, that’s a plus for all of us. Plus Ronnie Corbett turned up to our annual Dog Show, and I found out how small he really is.

Andrew has considerable media experience on television (BBC News, ITV, Sky, Disney Channel, Channel 4 The Big Breakfast), Radio London and writes every week on veterinary matters in the Sunday Times.

JUMP RIGHT IN! The BVA runs media training courses to help practices get to grips with the necessary skills to make the most of any media opportunities. Two courses are confirmed for 2014 on the 12th March and 8th September. For more information see

Practice Life z December 2013 z



CASE STUDY: RATHGAEL ON THE RADIO! Rathgael Vets’ Richard Kelly, based in Bangor, Northern Ireland, dipped his toe into radio broadcasting

Richard Kelly with Radio Ulster reporter Anne-Marie Wallace


y recent experience with the media was a very positive one. BBC Radio Ulster contacted me to ask if they could record a short piece about pet

dentistry for their “Pet Set” series. They had discovered my interest in dentistry from my website. The producer wanted to record an actual dental procedure while I talked about what I was doing. After gaining permission from the owner, we chose a Root Canal Treatment in a cat. A reporter and producer arrived and I talked through the procedure and made some general comments about dental care. Surprisingly, dental procedures lend themselves to radio because of all the noise generated by drilling and air jets! The multi-talented producer also took some videoclips and still photographs for publication on their website. Even radio is multimedia these days! The exposure certainly raised the profile of veterinary dentistry and made owners aware of the procedures available, as well as emphasising the important role of prophylactic tooth-brushing.

THE JOURNALIST’S POINT OF VIEW Producer and radio journalist Anne-Marie Wallace from Radio Ulster on her programme “The Pet Set” and why vets make such a good story


s the owner of three very different dogs, a Greyhound, a Jack Russell and a Labrador, I’m always amazed by how knowledgeable my vet is. To be able to assess what’s likely to be the problem, with only some poking, prodding and my vague descriptions to go by, is such a specialist skill. When I met Richard Kelly for the first time while making The Pet Set for BBC Radio Ulster, I was immediately struck by how dedicated he was to each and every one of the little animals that came in to his practice. It was also apparent that this was no ordinary veterinary clinic as the ominous sound of a dentist’s drill came wafting out of one of the operating rooms. Richard is something of an expert when it comes to pet dentistry. He works with a variety of animals to fix all sorts of unusual dental issues – de-scaling, extractions, root canals and even specialist braces for animals with malaligned teeth. On the day we arrived to record with Richard, a beautiful little white fluffy cat called Rosie was having her broken tooth fixed with a root canal procedure. Not only was this such a unique experience for me to witness it also made great radio with all the familiar sounds you’d expect from a dental surgery – the grind of the drill, the puffs of air and the tapping of the teeth. From a radio point of view anything that will sound exciting or immediately conjure up a detailed picture in the listener’s mind is going to appeal. It also was a huge bonus that Richard completed the picture with his vivid and detailed descriptions of the procedure every step of the way. z December 2013 z Practice Life

As a nation of animal lovers, people will always tune in to a programme to seek advice and learn tips about living with and raising a pet or animal. We’re particularly lucky that, even in a small place like Northern Ireland, we’ve got so many veterinary practices that specialise in different fields within veterinary medicine. In addition to looking at dental expertise, in our programme we have worked with vet Siobhan Menzies, who assists animals with alternative therapies such as treadmill work and acupuncture; another veterinary hospital use an MRI scanner to analyse the more serious and unusual illnesses that are often presented. If we’re lucky enough to get another series of The Pet Set I would love to chat to City Vets in Belfast who work closely with the charity Nutt House Hen rescue. The vet there has dealt with hens in all sorts of states but has also been working to fashion a new beak for a beautiful battery hen called Becky who had her beak clipped too closely. Like so many animals that are brought to the clinic, there’s often a back story which listeners enjoy. It’s part of the pleasure and pain of owning an animal. One of my vets at Garden Lodge has co-presented a number of programmes with me. He explains illnesses and symptoms in a really accessible and interesting way. Tom Fitzsimmons is incredibly friendly and kind but he also doesn’t confuse the listener with complicated medical terms. I remember I was worried my Labrador had very loose skin around her body, and his response was simply “Ahh, she’s a size 12 wearing a size 16 coat!”




learning to use the social power of video If your clinic does not use video to power your marketing then perhaps it is time to reassess. Digital HD video is available in your back pocket. Why not use it to start a new chapter in your practice’s story?


IGITAL video is the foundation of a coming internet revolution. Don’t believe it? Check out YouTube. Vice president of global content, Robert Kyncl told audiences at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show that video would soon be 90 per cent of internet traffic. Upload rates to the video giant at the time sat somewhere between 48 and 60 hours every minute. So does it affect your practice if you don’t consider video as part of your marketing strategy? You bet. Look at your younger clients. They are digital natives. There is no reason not to speak to them in their language.

Video-to-go You should know by now that video hosting is no secret. Thanks to sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion you can upload your practice tour, puppy party videos, open days or vaccine advice clinics in minutes. Linking it to your website is as easy as copying and pasting an embed code. And thanks to the smartphone revolution we all carry sophisticated HD video viewers and recorders with us in our back pockets to watch and create video on the fly. In fact the key to video success lies in that fact. Smartphones and tablets are here to stay. Mobile video is the net’s fastest growing market and it accounts for more than 50 per cent of web traffic to hand-held devices. Smart money is on video with 4G around the corner, but you have to be smart to capture audience. Viral video is part of the answer because it has great share potential. Start with a practice tour, but make it fun, give it personality. You pride yourself on your individuality so make that part of your video’s DNA. Find digital champions in your practice, staff with the time and inclination to mine your practice stories. It could be your clients, their pets or interesting cases. Do it thoughtfully and you will already be ahead of the pack. Video has incredible social value and people who engage with it will naturally want to know more about you and then share it with others.

Filming know-how Maybe you like the idea of video, but you are not sure how to go about making your own. If you have a smartphone then you already have your camera. Quality should not be an issue

and many video professionals use footage from handsets like the iPhone. In fact hand-held video is ‘platform agnostic’. There are an array of devices ranging from the extreme sports enthusiast’s goto, the GoPro series, to wi-fi enabled cameras and camcorders. HD video is native to all new digital cameras. If you want to invest in a DSLR camera go ahead, but try learning on less expensive kit first. What you need now are a couple of handy accessories and a little know-how. Get yourself a tripod for the invaluable steady shot. Be canny about how you place your camera to get the best sound, closer to the subject means clearer audio. Or invest in a separate microphone or audio recorder, like the Zoom series. Learn a little film grammar and shoot with variety – wide shots to set the scene, close ups for fine detail, high and low shots – it will make your videos instantly more interesting. Then when it comes to editing you have footage to play with. Even editing need not be a high-end investment these days. Youtube has its own online editor. If you need more flexibility then sites like FileLab or WeVideo offer more powerful timeline editing suites for free or with a subscription for extra functionality. If you have an iPad then software like Pinnacle Studio is professional quality and available for around £10. Of course you may not feel up to making the time investment in learning to shoot and edit your own. Do not worry, there are lots of small independent video companies who can help you with training or production.

Tell a story One thing that you cannot overlook when it comes to video is the importance of your story. Digital storytelling is the buzz phrase here and it encompasses all of your social media activities. Your Facebook profile will feature stories about the practice and that should tie in to activity on Twitter, email newsletters, podcasts and video. Creating a cohesive story is the goal. There are some devastatingly simple storytelling techniques that do require a little more thought and effort to put in place. Think about it. A story about your staff’s efforts in nursing a critically ill patient back to health versus a single sentence about your ICU on the website. Emotional engagement and client bonding in the first approach, bare acknowledgement in the second. Show clients you care and share your stories. Video is a powerful medium. Practice Life z December 2013 z


Keep it simple if you prefer. Medicine compliance is a tough nut to crack, so why not post videos showing clients how to administer treatment safely and effectively. Record simple guides to common conditions and how owners can deal with them. Promote best practice on welfare or breeding. It goes beyond simple marketing: it engages clients and increases understanding about what you do.

Utilise for training Three years ago one of the corporate veterinary chains decided to make video part of its everyday activities. Following the lead of US practices it started to record operations for its own personnel to use as CPD. Cheap HD webcams with built in microphones allow you to do this too. Why stop there? Record consultations for internal training or ‘how to’ videos on using equipment. You do not need gigabytes of internal server space to do it because YouTube offers an ‘unlisted’ category for non-public educational use. Reflexive video learning can be extremely powerful – check out the Upsidedown Academy where students teach each other. Remember, younger members of your staff are digital natives. Digital technology, web 2.0 and video are second nature to them. If you are still not convinced then bare statistics tell the story. Properly optimised video increases your chance of a front page Google result more than 50 times. Video as SEO. But whatever you use it for, with a little effort, video will enrich your practice. Robin Fearon is director of WeLove Publishing, specialising in digital and video publishing and practice training workshops (wlvdigital.


Vets on video – Practice tour and bite-size pet and patient videos – Goddard Veterinary Group offers clients medicines advice – Curated site for vets, students, VNs and technicians – Equipment manufacturer offers tutorials on using x-ray, ultrasound etc. – Generic pet healthcare advice


Tools and tips – 10 steps to a DIY interview – Guide to shooting mobile video – Publish powerpoint slides to Youtube and add audio. – Upload pictures to Youtube and publish as a video slideshow – Students teach and learn from each other

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What will stay the same? Your policy has evolved, but the VDS will still be run by vets, for vets, with a uniquely experienced team who understand the issues you face and the environment in which you work. You will continue to benefit from unlimited access to our comprehensive advisory service and immediate advice on complaints and claims handling. We will continue to work as hard as ever to defend your reputation, with help, guidance and support available if you are facing challenges from the profession’s regulators.

Contact us for more information!

The Veterinary Defence Society Limited, 4 Haig Court, Parkgate Estate, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 8XZ. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. z December 2013 z Practice Life


Buying Groups: TO JOIN or not to join Bob Moore qualified from ‘The Dick’ in 1967 and rose to senior managing partner in a practice in Somerset, before retiring in 2007. He has been active in a number of veterinary organisations, most notably BCVA where he was treasurer, BVA representative and then President in 1997/8. He has been a long-time member of SPVS and VPMA and is currently the latter’s treasurer. Since election to RCVS Council, Bob has served on all of its committees and several Working Groups, chairing a number of them. He was treasurer for three years before becoming RCVS President in 2007.


unning an independent business is challenging and most business owners like to consider ways in which they can save time, effort and money. Buying groups (BG’s) are one way in which businesses in the same sector can work together in order to take advantage of certain economies of scale. They have been used in the farming and retail sectors for many years and independent veterinary practices also have a number of groups now available to them. But how should a practice approach the question of ‘to join or not?’ Retired practitioner Bob Moore takes a look..... 8 major BGs were invited to submit a list of their view of 5 advantages of belonging to a BG and 3 possible disadvantages of membership. Responses are summarised in Table 1. Although the author knows the names of the BGs that responded, he is not aware of which response relates to which BG. Some responses have been shortened and summarised.

Discussion of the feedback Without exception, all BGs put the achieving of higher or better discounts at the top of their list of advantages, and this is likely to be the initial reason for a practice to consider joining a BG. Closely linked to good discounting on purchases is the advantage of improved cash flow. This arises not simply from the improved discount, but also because BGs will pay rebates and discounts on a monthly basis rather than quarterly as is the policy with many wholesalers. All the BGs thought that the provision of other services is an advantage of BG membership. These additional services include such things as CPD, training, own brand, business support and discounts on items other than simply pharmaceuticals. A practice considering joining a BG should consider whether there would be an advantage to them from the provision of these additional services. Saving practice administration time was also listed. Many practices find that there is no one with a particular interest

in ‘the business side of the practice’; clinical work is far more rewarding in their view. In such instances, the advantage of BG membership might be a significant factor. Other advantages listed by the BGs centre around the analysis and management of business with a variety of input from the BG management team. Each practice will need to consider their own particular requirement when making a choice. When asked for possible disadvantages of BG membership the responses were understandably less forceful. A comment common to all was the possible lack of clarity or lack of transparency in the detail of exactly what discounts or rebates were achieved by the BG, compared to that paid out to the members of the BG. In fact the downside of BG membership was broadly divided into two sectors; that involving financial arrangements in general, and that involving the reporting and analysis of performance for the individual practice. Although the author is not involved with BGs in any way, he does follow comments on various veterinary internet fora and is aware that the observations reported there, in general, reflect the same comments made by the BG themselves.

Conclusions There remains the question of whether or not membership of a BG is recommended for an individual practice. All those involved in clinical veterinary work know that a remedy for one particular animal, flock or herd cannot be recommended for direct transfer to another, without a full consideration of the status of the second individual or group. Similarly with BG membership, each practice will have to look closely at what their current situation is, what they consider to be their own particular goals, and whether one BG offers a deal which meets those goals. Anecdotal evidence and conversations with accountants conversant with veterinary practices, indicate that the majority of practices will benefit from BG membership. The major Practice Life z December 2013 z



TABLE 1: SOME FEATURES AND PERCEIVED BENEFITS Improved Margins or Discounts or Rebates

Better terms from suppliers, particularly on key products and better discounts than individual can negotiate.

Even large practices don’t have same buying power as BG. Helps compete with large corporates.

Of benefit to small Easy to see terms business or large and net net pricing. business that doesn’t wish to devote time to negotiating.

Improved Cash Flow

Rebates paid in month following purchase

Discounts (rebates) paid monthly

Increased frequency of rebate payments

Savings on pharmaceuticals, lab fees, cremations & other business costs.

Significantly improved Clear and concise cash flow information

Additional Support Access to raft of other Can be range of & Services discounted services. additional services – Possibly own brand should not need to range of products. pay for many of these.

Can be a significant Example given of feature of guidance through arrangement. E.g pension scheme. Exclusive offers, low cost CPD etc.

Time Saved

Someone else looks after practice best interests.

No need to see reps unless specifically wish to.

Office admin can be BG team working redirected to practice for practice. promotion activity.

Buying Power

BG has more ‘clout’ in negotiating discounts. Needs to have large number of members.

Improved negotiating lower.

Consider ‘Preferred Product List’ e.g. only 1 NSAID.

Analysis of Purchases etc

Monthly breakdown of spend and rebates.

Pricing Tools

Bespoke software allows Management reports practice to manage enable further savings pricing and analysis. to be made.

More Freedom to buy range of goods.

Look for discount arrangements with wide range of companies.

Access to high quality business support.

Clarity of real net net purchase prices.

POTENTIAL DISADVANTAGES Lack of transparency May be difficult to Have to pay BG Some BGs do not Is there a true saving identify actual net price rather than wholesaler reveal rebates taken, after all BG charges at any one point. direct & receiving or commission taken. and fees are deducted? Worse if part of rebates wholesaler settlement Some BG instruct used to support growth discount means lack suppliers not to Are BG charges scheme. of clarity. disclose deals made. clear and transparent? Mediocre Discounts

BG may try to cover too wide a field and dilute their ability to maximise discounts.

Too many small practices in a BG will reduce overall discount.

Unmanageable Reporting

Monthly or quarterly Can practice keep reports (often as track of discounts spreadsheets) are too and net costs over detailed without some long term? analysis being provided (by BG).

Who is BG working for?

Large BG may have Some BG have share holders to satisfy preferred suppliers and with large limiting range available. overheads your rebate will be damaged.

Long term contract

Unable to change even Unable to change BG. Enforced Contracts. Can practice leave if discounts or high fees with no penalty? are working against you.

Lack of flexibility

You are either ‘all-in’ or All prices cannot be ‘all-out’ so may lose out viewed by practice. on some existing arrangements with a supplier.

Suppliers are losing out

Some models have low Some BGs offer sustainability. New, less nothing back advantageous terms are to suppliers. being introduced by some suppliers.

Practice support

Is practice staff given training and support? z December 2013 z Practice Life

Some BG take over payments to wholesaler – loss of autonomy. Difficult to find out what is on offer making choice of BG difficult.

‘Payouts’ may be quarterly, reducing benefit of improved cash flow.

Some BGs have 2 year contracts.

‘All or nothing policy’ rather than option to choose discounts or services.



benefit is always the improvement of discounts, rebates and cash flow. Other benefits, such as those suggested by the BGs themselves, will further encourage membership, but will invariably be secondary to the financial benefits. Each BG has its own particular range of benefits to offer and it is impossible to make a judgement without detailed

knowledge of the practice. At the least, a practice should ask for contacts with two or three existing members to obtain first hand report of the performance of the BG in question. The advice of the practice accountant should also be sought before making a final choice. It does appear that most practices will benefit from being a BG member.

ADVERTORIAL London Vet Forum Enterprise UK is a one of the longest established UK buying groups. We have low charges and excellent discounts on a wide range of products and services. Our aim is to be more than a buying group and to assist our members to “Practice on a stronger footing”. MiVetClub, launched recently by CVS, enables independently-owned practices to benefit from the knowledge, experience and strength of the 250 practices which form the UK’s largest and fastest-growing corporate veterinary group. Services include: • competitive discounts on a wide range of veterinary products and services • business support and management expertise • access to exciting own brand products including POM-Vs

Premier Vet Alliance offers flexible savings, customised to the needs of specific practices with a three month free trial. Practices are free to choose which manufacturer discounts to take advantage of, allowing them to maintain existing discount relationships with individual suppliers. A low cost annual membership fee gives access to a range of additional services all designed to improve compliance, cash flow and client loyalty. Save money, save time, increase your sales and profit. • Reduced costs and full administrative support • Bespoke management tools and support • 100% of discounts passed on in full – swift, accurate and traceable • Non-restrictive – retain clinical freedom • Access to a wide range of supporting services, including business academy • No joining fee, no contract, no termination fee

At Total Vet Solutions we believe that competitor buying group models are outdated. Our approach is fair, flexible, and transparent, and demonstrates a WIN-WIN for members and suppliers alike. We’re also run by vets. That’s why we continue to grow and attract new members from other Groups. To learn more call Keith on 07702 163501. VetShare Buying Group, run by vets for vets, giving large group buying power to all members. • FREE to join • FREE three month trial • Never tied in, total clarity, low monthly fee Speak to the rest then speak to the best on 0800 756 6636 VetSharing the benefits, get your fair share. Vetswest is the UK’s most forward-thinking veterinary buying group. Without contracts members receive 100% of manufacturers’ superior base terms, improved cash flow, significant savings, time management and many value-added services cost effectively. Vetswest passes on superior terms over our competitors because of our membership profile and the clarity of our nett nett pricing policy.

Practice Life would like to apologise for the omission of Vetcel Buying Group in the print version of this article. For full details see Vetcel work to improve member’s profitability by reducing the cost of their purchases on pharmaceuticals and other goods/services, by negotiating the very best discount terms possible from our partners. We strive to provide a high quality, transparent and reliable service. We pay 100% of discounts earned in the month following purchase. We charge no membership, administration, joining or termination fee and do not tie members into a contract.

Practice Life z December 2013 z


FRESH IDEAS for business Susan McKay looks at some fresh ideas to kick-start 2014, and we hear from practices that are expanding their horizons with new and alternative products and services. Susan McKay graduated from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 1988 and gained an MBA from the Open University in 2002. In the same year she established Companion Consultancy, an agency specialising in PR, communications and marketing support for the veterinary industry.


he patient is severely compromised, on the point of collapse, maybe even flat-lining. Clearly some sort of stimulus is required. But let’s be clear, we’re not talking fur and feathers because as a practice manager your patient is the veterinary practice and it’s up to you to wheel out the crash cart, set up an infusion and administer some life-affirming oxygen.

Don’t panic! Even if you are the sort of person that loves a challenge, turning around a declining or floundering business is a pretty scary task. When things start to crumble it may seem that it’s vitally important for you to be there at the scene of the action, firefighting the day to day problems that are always present and rallying your team. Conversely, taking time out to think through the problems and opportunities is probably never going to be more critical than it is now. There are many business tools that can help you analyse what might be going wrong, identify what you are good at, review internal and external factors that are causing your business environment to change, assess what resources ou already have and how you can use them more effectively. The end result should be a plan that all the team can buy in to. Going through this rational process helps prevent you from jumping to conclusions, following your gut (perhaps with very little justification) and clinging to unsuitable ideas as if they were the last metaphorical lifeboat on the ship.

Making the right move But maybe all you want, or are ready for, is a quick fix or a shortcut that will get you out of the woods for long enough to see the trees? As with any situation, you have three basic choices: acceptance, change or bale out. Your analysis might suggest that things seem bad right now, but actually it’s just a case of weathering the storm until the economy improves. That’s not necessarily a rash decision but it’s a brave one. Exit strategies might seem attractive but a business in need of reviving will rarely make the best price. So what about change? Where might the opportunities lie? One way you can look at this is to consider that you can change what you do, how you do it, when you do it and/or where you do it. As the meerkat says, simples. z December 2013 z Practice Life

What you do… So, you’re in the business of being a veterinary practice. You’re not in the business of doggy day care, or training pet owners, or offering first aid courses, or running a retail outlet, or producing a local pet magazine, or running residential courses on pet ownership, or running a model smallholding, or even a model agency for pets, or inventing pet products, or specialising in lamas, or turning your practice website into a profit generating entity then? Maybe there are good reasons why you aren’t doing any of those things. Maybe you just didn’t have time to do them before. Are there political, economic, social or technological reasons why any of those things might be possible now but were not before? Does anyone in the business have a passion? Always wanted to dye a poodle pink, run a fashion forward pet boutique or nail bar, or build a pet friendly coffee shop in the car park? Now’s your opportunity.

How you do it… So, you’re going to stick to vetting because that’s what you are good at, it’s your passion and you love it. Great! While everyone else is dying poodles pink you can concentrate on being vetty. But maybe you want to do it using a new whizzy IT system and follow up clients more effectively. Maybe you want to offer a ‘back to basics’ approach – either all the time or maybe just as a trial at special clinics at an otherwise unpopular time of the



CASE STUDY Billa Schleicher, owner of All Pets Vet Care in Milford Haven shares some of the ideas she’s implemented and why it’s the little things that make a difference...

What we do internally... wear the same orange polo shirt – we are a team and

Bonding: We always try to have lunch together at our practice. In the summer, we might have lunch outside on our picnic table in front of the practice, overlooking the harbour. We book company reps in at lunchtimes. This means they can meet all the staff (and information gets disseminated easily) and they have lunch with us which is nice. We also provide In-house Pilates, paid for by the practice. On Monday nights, the seats get moved out of the waiting room and our Pilates instructor comes in for 1 and a 1/4 hours. This helps us to relax, keeps us fit and helps with our backs!

And for our clients... Our waiting room is painted white, with colourful seats, flooring and lighting and paintings on the wall. We also have bright uniforms – all members of the team

day. Maybe you want to go the other way – Russian oligarchs have flooded into the area and really want a top-notch premium service that your practice could provide simply by ramping up equipment and employing more diploma holders. Perhaps you have always longed to go out into the community with a mobile van, maybe community is so important to you that you would like to work with local groups and help the elderly or homeless care for their pets, or use a team based approach for every patient, call every client by their first name, or pay everybody only on a profit share basis. It might be about processes and protocols, or values and behaviours but clearly how you run the practice offers huge scope for change.

Where you do it… When it comes to the marketing mix (price, place, promotion, product), there’s lots of scope to play with the concept of ‘place’ these days. Wondering why you are paying town centre rates when it’s mainly deserted? Out of town in retail parks and online are where it’s at. Do you know if your clients even want to visit you at all – ever? Perhaps an out of town practice designed just for animal comfort and not even attempting to cater for clients, could be practical when combined with a door-to-door delivery service? Or are there wonderful prospects for practices opening up in Ibiza right now? Time to get out of town and spend what you save on rent

everybody in it is important. But we also wear name tags, so people can see who’s who and know the names of staff members. We offer our own brand cat and dog food which is reassuring for owners (and Billa has been supplying hay and toys for rabbits and rodents as a separate business for the last 15 years – Ed.) We are always looking at what new services we can offer and are currently the only practice in our area to offer laser treatment and dental radiography. We hold client talks for things like rabbit week, parasite control and pain in cats, alongside our clinics, under the brand ‘Life Coaching for Pets’. We also recently held a full day First Aid for Pets course, which was very popular with our clients. Out in the community, we visit kindergartens, schools and scout groups, where we take veterinary paraphernalia and let the kids dress up in gloves, masks and gowns. We get them to help us “operate” on our life-size soft toy dog. Or we may have groups coming in for a tour round the practice and we have quizzes prepared for them to make it fun.

on advertising instead, with the aim of making your practice a ‘destination’? Or get really abstract and think about offering introductory, no-fee, Skype-based screening consultations just for new clients.

When you do it… Flexi working, part-time working and non-standard working hours are becoming the norm. Is there any reason why you can’t run a night shift that performs neutering and dentals, providing better asset utilisation and controlling costs as a result? Don’t know any graduates that have an abseiling habit to cater to during the day who would love to work nights? No mums and dads out there that would love to hand over childcare in the evening to another parent and do late evening consults? Are Wednesdays so slow that it would make sense to only provide emergency cover that day but open all day Sunday?

Dare to be different There are many practices out there that are breaking the mould. Some of them have done it by making many small changes and challenging preconceptions, some have been more prepared to rip up the rulebook. We don’t seriously think anyone is going to make a living dyeing poodles pink but the key perhaps is to be playful when thinking about the possibilities. If the practice needs a little pick-me-up right now then a bit of creative thinking could be just the tonic. Practice Life z December 2013 z



CASE STUDY: THE WHEELHOUSE DOG TRAINING SCHOOL Laura Palmer RVN BSc (Hons) A.Dip CBM runs a dog training school at her practice in Bucks alongside her nursing and behaviour counsellor roles. Laura is a registered veterinary nurse and has worked in practice for seven years. During this time she gained an Advanced Diploma in canine behaviour management and a BSc (Hons) in applied animal behaviour. She is a provisional member of the UK Registry and Canine Behaviourists (UKRCB) and the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) and full member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).


ur group of practices, the Wheelhouse Veterinary Centre, consists of three busy surgeries in Buckinghamshire. This year we decided to expand the services we offer to our clients. The practice was already running puppy socialisation classes and providing new puppy owners with monthly clinics to support them through the many challenges that raising a healthy, well socialised puppy entails. I believe that it is the responsibility of the veterinary team to make it easy for our clients to follow the advice that we give. So it worried me to find our dog owners reporting that the training establishments we were recommending were often fully booked or did not respond to the client’s enquiry. Sometimes the client was not happy with the training methods they advised or the service they received. Having gained a BSc(Hons) degree in applied animal behaviour and passed the practical and written examinations necessary to achieve full membership of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I felt the best way of solving these issues was for The Wheelhouse Veterinary Centre to open our own training school. And so The Wheelhouse Dog Training School was born. Currently we run five classes: two beginner classes for puppies, one beginner class for older dogs, an intermediate class and an advanced class. One of our surgeries is blessed with a small paddock adjacent to its garden. The service also extends to one-toone training sessions, and our paddock facilities can also be useful during behaviour consultations. Next year we hope to add to this with the introduction of agility classes and monthly clinics on a particular training topic. Considerable investment was required to get our paddock area secure and presentable in addition to advertising costs for the school. Successfully running a training service requires good communication and enthusiasm from all members of the veterinary team, as well as time to carry out any associated administration tasks. We talk to clients to ensure that they are booked on to the correct class and have realistic expectations of what they are committing to. Despite the challenges, the investment has paid off by giving us satisfied, bonded clients, an opportunity to find new clients and the promise of on-going revenue. z December 2013 z Practice Life

Jo Foley from Wellpet Veterinary Practice in Shenley, uses her crafting skills to benefit the business... After years of spending money on advertising that didn’t seem to bring in new clients, we realised that a huge percentage of new custom came via existing clients spreading the word for we tried a different approach that involved spoiling and cosseting our present customers in the hope they will pass our name on. One of our most successful ideas has been our bandanas for dogs. Every dog that comes in for an operation or a hospital stay goes home with a Wellpet bandana on them, and if we have a dog that’s been especially brave in the consulting room, they get one too. We use them at local pet shows too to help drive awareness of us with owners who aren’t clients. We buy the fabric on-line and we change themes according to the season, e.g. love hearts around Valentine’s Day, little bunnies at Easter, pastel polka-dots in the summer, warm oranges and reds in the autumn. We have just changed from bats and pumpkins for Halloween, to our Christmas range of holly and poinsettias. We cut the material into small, medium and large triangles and one of our retired nurses hems them on her sewing machine. We have embroidered badges with our logo on them which we iron on with wonderweb and then they are ready for wearing! The cost of each bandana is around 80p, but we are sure that they are a great conversation starter in the park and worth the cost. We also sell them in the waiting room for a suggested donation of £1 and give the money to a local charity. Occasionally cat owners will want a small one for their pets and we even had to make up a special order for a lady with a dozen show ferrets who wanted them for her next show!



the Veterinary Receptionist Angela Andrew from Connaught House Veterinary Hospital got to grips with the necessities of modern-day reception training at the SPVS-VPMA Training the Veterinary Receptionist seminar. She reports here... On Thursday 24th October I made the familiar journey from my home to the Village Hotel, Solihull to attend ‘Training the Veterinary Receptionist’, with speakers Brian Faulkner and Nicki Glen. Having already had the experience of listening to Brian, I was well aware of his excellent credentials (being an awardwinning vet and practice owner with both an MBA and a Masters in Psychology), and his style of training suited me perfectly. Nicki, on the other hand, was new to me but further investigation revealed another impressive background – a former veterinary nurse who has developed a very successful business career both within and outside the veterinary industry and is MD of NG Marketing. She is fascinated by customer communication and, within this area, has conducted research into sensory understanding. Right up my street, so to speak. I, therefore, had high expectations of this partnership. On arrival I joined 40 other delegates from a variety of practices around the country; there was a real mixed bunch, predominantly receptionists and nurses, but also a few practice managers and two or three vets. The room was laid out informally with large round tables, so I anticipated there would be a certain amount of group work ahead. After the initial introductions, Brian handed over to Nicki who immediately ran a video of David Walliams, in drag, playing the role of an extremely rude hospital receptionist with no interpersonal skills whatsoever. The clip was hilarious, but also thought-provoking when considered in the context of the topic of the day’s training. It was an excellent link into the first of a number of group exercises led by Nicki, setting the scene perfectly for a debate about customer service. We split into groups to discuss personal experiences of customer service, good or bad. Listening to real stories was an effective way of reminding us just how crucial excellent customer service is to business success. The whole day was extremely well-organised. The role of the receptionist was discussed in general and then sub-divided into four specific areas: clinical resolution; client satisfaction; commercial resolution; and, finally, team harmony. During the day, the contribution that receptionists could make to enhance the client experience in each of these areas was described and discussed in detail. The need to formalise training in these areas by devising protocols was stressed time and again. To aid in this process we were provided with templates to enable us to prepare our own protocols

of, for example, preventative healthcare issues and a briefing form for special offers and promotions etc. Later the focus was shifted back to client communication skills and the importance of listening to what clients are saying, or not saying, what body language can reveal and an understanding that all people have different values and beliefs which should be respected, even if they conflict with our own opinions. The benefits of engendering trust, like and respect within any relationship were also stressed. An interesting overview of Emotional Intelligence (EI) then ensued. Brian described what EI is and how it enables us to identify emotions in both ourselves and others and use this knowledge to adapt our behaviour to suit the situation – a very useful tool to be able to implement in many scenarios within a veterinary practice. Another group session followed, led by Nicki, where we talked about scenarios where our expectations had been managed or exceeded or, conversely, not met. These group exercises were extremely useful in facilitating recognition of the emotions that arise and the behaviour that follows when there is a mis-match between what is expected and what is actually delivered. Both speakers were excellent. The topics flowed perfectly and the transitions between the two of them were seamless. Brian Faulkner knows instinctively how to engage with his audience and makes effective use of humour, metaphors and personal anecdotes. Most of us are familiar with the SMART acronym used when setting goals or outcomes; Brian has a range of his own acronyms which he introduces at relevant points throughout the day as a helpful aidememoire for actions which are crucial to the successful performance of the receptionist’s role. The messages were further embedded by the brilliant use of colour and imagery in the accompanying PowerPoint slides and the excellent handouts provided. The whole learning experience was also enhanced by Nicki’s input with her depth of knowledge, engaging delivery and complementary group exercises for those who appreciate a more hands-on approach. Something for everyone, and I’m pleased to say that my expectations were not only met but exceeded.

The main point that I took away from the day can be summed up in four words: WHY? HOW? WHAT? and PROTOCOLS. People might know what they are supposed to do in a certain situation but not understand why or even how to do it (or any combination of those three words). In order to rectify this we must ensure that we have protocols for everything our receptionists are involved in and that these protocols address those questions. This will empower the reception team and contribute greatly to raising morale through job satisfaction. I’m champing at the bit and can’t wait to put these ideas into action.

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for business partnership

Vet Ceri Gruffudd Jones who attended the SPVS-VPMA Preparing for Business Partnership day at Hartsfield Manor in October, shares her thoughts and learnings with us... I attended this course with one of my work colleagues who, like me, is interested in a potential future business partnership. We are both female, mid-30’s clinicians in small animal general practice and thinking very hard about how to balance family and career. Other delegates on the course came from a variety of career backgrounds. Some were aspiring partners, hoping to join a partnership, some were existing partners or business owners looking to take on a new partner. An existing partner and an assistant (hoping to become a new partner) from the same practice also came along, to learn about things from the other’s viewpoint. My aims for this course were to gain further information about possible ways of building and structuring a new partnership arrangement, finding out the absolute ‘must do’ and ‘must NOT do’ points. I also hoped for more information of where to go and whom to contact for specific advice regarding veterinary businesses, not just general business advice. Hartsfield Manor is a beautiful location close to the M25 and Gatwick airport, but still felt peaceful and rural. Accommodation was z December 2013 z Practice Life

available for delegates preferring to stay the night before, although we did not. The old country house has elegant, high ceilinged rooms and sweeping lawns which made for a lovely ambience. The conference room was set out quite informally with round tables rather than rows of chairs allowing for group discussions. The hospitality and catering was very good with plentiful tea and coffee and a very nice cooked lunch (I had the baked cod with salsa verde and vegetables followed by a rather naughty strawberry mousse). Peter Gripper from Anval provided the ‘Business’ side in his talks, with lectures on the different models of ownership available, how to decide how many partners a business could reasonably support and some basic financials introduction, although the emphasis of this course was not number crunching. There was a brainstorming session where each table drew up a list of pros and cons of forming partnerships. Support, shared responsibility, financial rewards and the ability to go on holiday leaving the place with someone trusted in charge were among the pros. Increased stress and workload, financial risk and the need to take on management and administrative tasks rather than the clinical work we have all been trained for were among the cons. Tracy Bainbridge from The Park Veterinary Group talked through the structure of a large, multi-site practice with a very clear veterinary career progression from assistant to associate then salaried partner and finally full partner. After lunch, there was a panel discussion where delegates could pose questions to Tracy and Nick Stuart, owner of Vale Vets. One of the main discussion topics was how to combine part time working and maternity leave with partnership and practice ownership. I think it fair to say that there were almost as many opinions on this and options as there were people in the room. One of the points that I found most interesting was how important it is to have an ‘exit strategy’ in place right at the start of a partnership. It is so easy to get swept along in the financial detail and deciding how you’re going to divide and spend all those delicious profits that will surely be coming your way as soon as you sign the partnership agreement, and yet a plan for succession or leaving a partnership set down at the beginning could prevent a lot of financial loss and conflict in years to come. Overall, I found this a very interesting and enlightening course. Unlike clinical CPD courses I cannot recite a list of facts I have learned, but I feel much more confident about what a business partnership entails and how to set one up, what to include and what to avoid. I learned who to contact for advice at each stage of the partnership process and this was also very useful. I came away from the course with a list of questions to ask with regard to my own situation and an idea of whom I should be asking. This was a vast improvement on the woolly thinking and “I know I need more information but I don’t know what I need to know or where to start” position I had before attending. Informally discussing different peoples’ situations at coffee break and lunch was also helpful, finding out about the various routes through which they attained partnership and what works for them. It’s still a scary prospect but I think I can make it work!


SPVS-VPMA Congress 30th January - 1st February 2014 WHERE THE PRACTICE TEAM COMES TOGETHER At the time of going to press, registrations for Congress 2014 were up 40% on the same time this year. We’re not surprised because with four packed streams of the very best business-based CPD on offer, you won’t find better value for your time or money anywhere. We are particularly pleased by how many practices are taking advantage of the group discount for 3 or more people from the same practice with owners bringing their managers and managers bringing their bosses!

NEW FOR 2014! In-depth Coaching In response to your request for in-depth training for experienced managers, we have a dedicated half day on coaching with Zoetis’ Vet Support National Consulting Manager, Nick Steele. Evidence suggests that coaching an average performer can enhance performance by 17% and coaching your high performers increases retention. If you need coaching to become a coach, this is where you start.

A full stream on Mental Health & Well-Being As part of its campaign on raising awareness of mental health problems and increasing mental well-being within the profession, SPVS and VPMA have dedicated a whole stream at congress to this issue, covering everything from recognising and addressing stress in your staff to achieving your own work/life balance. Read more about the Mental Health stream in our Well-Being section.

Managing the Equine Practice For the first time at Congress, we are dedicating a whole stream, to the management of equine businesses. We will bring you equine-specific KPI’s, top tips on marketing the equine practice right through to training the equine

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receptionist. Our speakers either work in or with some of the country’s most successful equine practices and our chair is Rita Dingwall, past VPMA president and herself a group manager of 7 sites which include 3 equine branches.



Into Ownership Thinking of practice ownership anytime soon? If so Saturday’s Into Ownership stream is a must. Brian Faulkner will share his recent experience of setting up a brand new practice, and the mindswitch required to become a boss. Vet business expert Alan Robinson looks at financial essentials, VPMA favourite Tim Puddle looks at marketing, while Anthony Reilly from Balloon Dog discusses the importance of building a brand. We also ask vets who’ve recently done it to compare and contrast corporate joint venture partnerships with private models.

5 to 15 years qualified? SPVS are hosting a networking lunch on Saturday for younger vets. Come along and find yourself a SPVS mentor to help you through this next step of your career and exchange experience with others at a similar stage. Five to 15 year’s qualified vets, who are not already SPVS members, get one year’s free membership allowing them to come to congress at the member rate.

Celtic Manor 5 Star Resort at an unbeatable price! Only two hours’ drive from London, this world-class destination offers a host of exceptional facilities. Home of the Ryder Cup 2010, the hotel has been voted ‘Top UK Conference Hotel’ for five years running. We have negotiated some excellent room rates so don’t leave it too late to book!

Network with 60+ exhibitors Congress provides a fantastic opportunity to network with colleagues and touch base with leading suppliers of veterinary business products and services. The atmosphere is informal and friendly so you can take it at your own pace with time for longer conversations in a more intimate environment than most other shows can offer. Our Thursday night social and Friday night banquet are almost full, so get your tickets now! z December 2013 z Practice Life

Meet our star speakers with their tips on building a positive and productive workplace: Katherine Eitel, on meaningful meetings and training that sticks, and John Lewis Main Board Director and Head of HR, Tracey Killen, on what we can learn from the consumer champion, plus her take on staff bonuses and remuneration. Book online now at www.vpma-spvs-events. or by phoning 01453 872731. 15% discount for group practice bookings and a massive £135 reduction on full registration for SPVS and VPMA members. See you there! Our huge thanks to our sponsors who we truly couldn’t do this without!

Draft programme-subject to change. For the most recent programme see the events website where you can also book online!


SVPS/VPMA CPD PROGRAMME 2014 COMING SOON! Our final CPD Programme for 2014 will be launched at Congress in January. However provisional details are already up on our website, so take a look at You can book on line for the first two events with more to follow soon. MOVING UP INTO MANAGEMENT: FIONA SIMS, ZOETIS 26th February 2014, Milton Keynes This course is aimed at nurses who have recently progressed to manage people, have a career progression interest into head nurse or practice management and those who would like to polish up their nurse management and leadership skills. The course will include various role specific case studies and scenarios.

COLOURFUL CONSULTATION: BRIAN FAULKNER, VETPSYCH 12th March 2014, Bristol The consultation room is the business driver of the veterinary practice. Brian’s very popular one day course will help you ensure all your vets’ consults are on message and on time, and that your vets work effectively with receptionists, nurses and each other. This course will be repeated in Gatwick in June.

Did you know OUR CPD EVENTS... including Congress are open to both members of SPVS and VPMA and non-members. Members can register at substantially reduced rates. It’s worth joining for this alone, not to mention a whole raft of extra benefits. To read more on the membership packages, visit the association websites on and

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s was an People who I sp excellen oke to o t day of Alan Ro n the d CPD. binson’s ay agre ed with present and Bria a t t h io is ... n on pricin n Faulk ner’s on g and s ratio w t im r a tegy proving ere high the diag lights fo nostic dentistr r m e . I missed y sessio n from the pro reporte Pete So fitable utherde d to be excellen n but it t.’ was Tom Fly nn, God dard Ve t Group

Don’t miss our March/April edition, coming out March 10th. SPECIAL FEATURES: Harnessing Technology in Practice: Looking at IT developments present and future Telephone Skills and Conversion: Why it pays to take that call professionally Open Book Accounting: Should you share your financials with your staff? Modern Maternity HR: What you need to know and do Practice Life z December 2013 z

Accountants, Taxation & Practice Development Specialists to the moore scarrott Veterinary Profession CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS

Our service is completely flexible which enables us to fit within the practice management team at any level in a cost effective way. We offer a free of charge, no obligation initial meeting and discussion, anywhere in the UK. Financial and management accounts Practice management and development advice Practice structuring, restructuring and finance Full outsourcing service and payroll bureau Taxation - compliance and mitigation strategies Full benchmarking service Forensic services Practice properties Succession planning Sage accountant partners

Veterinary team partners: Andy Moore Steve Headon Marcus Longbottom Nick Lawrence Calyx House, South Road, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 3DU Telephone: 01823 282100 Fax: 01823 254396

Competition breathing down your neck?

Medivet has the solution Big groups, small independents, vaccination clinics, mobile vets: they all want a slice of your business. If you need some breathing space, why not talk to Medivet about partnership? As a partner, you can devote your energy to running your practice and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll feel more secure and supported. We'll work hard to improve your profitability, and thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s our financial backing and expertise to help grow your practice. Call us today and find out how partnership can help you get your breath back. T: 01923 470000 E:

Practice Life 2 1213  

Joint Magazine for SPVS and VPMA Veterinary Groups for Vets & reflecting life in Veterinary Practices