Directors aim to develop an advanced referral practice with a superb working environment - Veterinary Practice
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Directors aim to develop an advanced referral practice with a superb working environment

Veterinary Practice visits an expanding practice on a business park in the Surrey countryside.

A BUSINESS park in the quiet Surrey countryside might seem an unlikely location for a state-of-the-art companion animal referral practice but the director-partners of North Downs Specialist Referrals (NDSR) are delighted with their new premises.

NDSR originally started with two specialists seeing referrals on a part-time basis within a first opinion practice. Over six years the caseload and number of specialists expanded until NDSR became a separate business from the first opinion practice. At this time the practice was formed with the current directors Terry Emmerson and Myra Forster-van Hijfte.

Easy access

“Our vision was to create one of the most advanced referral practices in the UK,” says Terry, “but as well as creating state-of-the-art clinical facilities, we wanted to design a light, spacious and modern hospital providing a superb working environment for our staff and an improved referral experience for our clients.

“We chose a rural business park site comprising adjacent warehouse and office buildings, which boasted easy access to major roads (it’s a short distance from junction 6 of the M25) and perfectly satisfied our requirements for 10,000 square feet of floor space and adequate parking.

“The main building, however, was an uninspiring industrial warehouse with little natural light, utterly at odds with our vision for the hospital. The two major challenges in the design were to maximise natural light and create a modern new exterior in keeping with the area – which is designated green belt and subject to strict planning regulations.”

Other design challenges included linking two separate buildings with differing appearances into one cohesive building and optimising the use of the floor space. The main unit was converted into the hospital; the smaller unit laid out for the administration and staff areas and linked to the main unit by a glass-fronted link building.

The hospital unit was covered in cedar cladding to give a rural, yet attractive, feel. This was combined with powder-coated aluminium glazing. Natural light was increased by the
maximum use of glazing allowed within the planning regulations and large numbers of large rooflights.

The doubleheight reception and waiting area increases the sense of space and light; behind this a mezzanine floor has been created to provide a meeting room and offices and all the support facilities such as laundry, food preparation, lab and sterilising.

Downstairs are the six consulting rooms, three theatre sterile suites, three procedure rooms, CT and digital radiology rooms and kennels for 45 dogs and 20 cats.

All the corridors are extra wide to give a feeling of space and allow easy passage of staff and patients on trolleys. The doors in the clinical areas are all 50% wider than standard to allow easy manoeuvring. Concealed storage areas in all the rooms minimise clutter.

All the clinical rooms have wall mounted stands for infusion pumps, laryngoscopes and anaesthetic machines – again to reduce clutter when the rooms are in use.

The building was completed at a cost of £1.2 million with additional equipment a further £500,000 and the project has featured in a RIBA review.

Residency training

The practice aims to only recruit clinicians who have undergone formal residency training in their speciality and who have or will achieve recognised specialist status.

Currently there are 14 full-time specialists on staff offering referrals in orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery, internal medicine, ophthalmology, cardiology, oncology, neurology, neurosurgery, diagnostic imaging and dermatology.

Total numbers, including nursing and administrative staff, are 45. One of the recent recruits is Ray Girotti, previously with the Goddard Veterinary Group in London, as practice manager.

The practice continues to grow with plans for further expansion of staff and facilities. The routine catchment covers Surrey, Sussex, Kent, London and Hampshire, although cases have been seen from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland.

Two specialists per discipline

One aim is to have at least two full-time specialists in each discipline and the practice has already achieved this in medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, neurology and cardiology.

With the recent appointment of a second cardiologist – Joao Loureiro joining Nuala Summerfield – the practice took a major step in establishing itself as a centre of excellence for cardiology in the southeast and is now able to handle both routine and emergency cases.

“We are one of the few centres in the UK able to provide a full interventional cardiology service, offering minimally invasive transvascular surgical procedures for heart disease in dogs and cats,” says Nuala Summer-field, who joined NDSR in 2006.

Procedures currently available include balloon valvuloplasty for pulmonary stenosis, transarterial Amplatz ductal occlusion of PDA and transvenous pacemaker implantation for symptomatic bradyarrhythmias.

In addition to providing mainstream therapy, NDSR is offering novel diagnostics such as myocardial tissue Doppler and is
involved in a number of clinical trials.

  • North Downs Specialist Referrals is at The Friesian Building 3 & 4, The Brewerstreet Dairy Business Park, Brewer Street, Bletchingley, Surrey RH1 4QP; telephone 01883 741440; website

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