Seeing what others do - Veterinary Practice
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Seeing what others do

EACH March, the British Veterinary Hospitals Association takes a coachload of delegates to visit interesting and well-designed practices over the course of a weekend.

The event is aimed at those who are considering new builds or major refurbishments, but the just plain nosy are also very welcome. This year, the chosen location was in the Midlands, and the weekend was kindly sponsored by ShorLine.

The 40 delegates had the opportunity to visit the Nottingham Veterinary School as well as six top-end practices, which kindly let them rummage in every nook and cranny and ask awkward questions about their choices of fixtures and finishes.

Beginning in Nottingham, where Malcolm Cobb showed delegates around, they were most impressed by the teaching aids on display, very different to when most of us qualified. My personal favourite was a pony’s leg beautifully preserved (no greasiness, no smell) and sliced into segments to show the anatomy at different levels, held together by a leather strap to allow it to be reconstructed in the correct order.

The corridors were lined with skeletons of domestic species, and artificial simulation devices were available for such techniques as epidural injections and rectal palpation. The dissection room was set up to practise spaying rabbits, each table having a laminated sheet with step-by-step colour photos of the procedure.

As ever on a BVHA trip, it was often the very small features that caught the attention. I was fascinated by the fire safety system at Nottingham where, in the event of a fire alarm, a member of staff would check a specified area then collect a plastic token as an indicator that that area was clear. These plastic tokens would then be collated and checked at the fire assembly point to ensure that the entire building had been cleared.

The next visit was to the Dovecote Veterinary Hospital in Castle Donington, where hosts Andrew and Alison Robinson generously provided the group with lunch as well as a tour of their smart new premises.

Delegates particularly liked the layout of the imaging suite, where a central workstation allowed access to CT, MRI and x-ray, while also allowing an overview of the prep room, useful in a practice with only three veterinary surgeons.


After lunch, East Midlands Referrals and Buckley House Veterinary Surgery were the destinations, both operated by Graham Oliver within a couple of miles of each other. Buckley House was the winner of the 2004 BVHA Practice Design Competition, where the judges had been particularly impressed by the innovative use of space, with every nook and cranny pressed into service.

Both had particularly attractive reception areas, very small but stylish and attractive, handbuilt by Graham himself. The building next door to Buckley House is labelled as a “veterinary pharmacy”, and all dispensing is done from there, along with nurse consultations.

The Sunday morning dawned bright and cold, and the shivering delegates set off to look at the newly-built small animal hospital of BVHA councillor Stuart Holland. The Pool House Veterinary Hospital in Lichfield has produced many eminent names in the profession over the years, and now has an impressive new home.

The hospital is bright and spacious, and delegates particularly liked the prep room, with theatres and procedure rooms leading from each corner leaving a spacious centre, and with several small wash-hand basins in useful places.

A lot of attention was also paid to the security arrangements, which the nurses had demanded given the out-of-town location, but which had not stopped an enterprising thief from making away with the emergency generator.

The party moved on to the equine side of the practice, a few miles away at Crown Inn Farm, where it nearly did turn into a party as buck’s fizz was laid on! Although, understandably, less “shiny” than the hospital, delegates found the tour highly interesting, the surgical facilities boasting very low anaesthetic complication rates and offering high-end services such as embryo transfer.

Seven equine vets work from the premises, including Richard Stephenson, the responsible partner, and Gil Riley, recently named Petplan Equine Vet of the Year.

The final visit was probably the highlight of the weekend for many delegates: the magnificent new premises of Willows Referrals in Solihull. The design is clean and understated,

complementing the space and light of the building and creating an ambience that reflects the high quality of work done there. Delegates were very interested in the choice of floor and wall finishes, as well as admiring the “toys” such as the imaging suite, where they were shown some very impressive images of a dog with a skull fracture. Despite the economic downturn, veterinary practice is clearly in good heart if premises such as these are still being built, and the BVHA is grateful to the owners for allowing the group to visit.

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