Digglum Bestiaruim ~ The Digglers' Crest

The Digglers

Out Of Hours Veterinary Consultancy

The below letter was sent in the New Year to all animal related magazines and copies were also sent to the BVA, BSAVA, and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The letter has been published in the Vet Record and Your Cat, at the end of January 2005. Also you can read peoples' responses to the letter. If you wish to comment on the Out Of Hours Veterinary Consultancy, please contact us.

The Letter

I am Chairwoman of Veterinary Vouchers Charitable Trust Fund and I would like to raise certain issues regarding out of hours veterinary consultation.

On Friday 11th December 2004, I had the misfortune of having a very sick male cat that needed immediate attention. The majority of veterinary practices within my area have recently joined a consortium that provides out of hours consultation, which facilitates travelling quite a distance for the animal to receive the appropriate care.

This raises the following issues:

  • Is this in the best interest of animal welfare, expecting sick and injured animals experiencing further trauma of long journeys?
  • Expecting clients to travel to an unfamiliar location whilst dealing with their sick or injured pet? If the usage of mobile phones causes significant distraction whilst driving, does the cries of a distressed animal warrant the same concerns?
  • Out of hours for vets probably means out of hours for public transport.
  • Can the elderly who are on fixed incomes afford taxi fares and could they deal with the trauma?

The joining of an out of hours consortium appears to be the growing trend amongst veterinarians. This then begs the question, will more companion animals not receive emergency treatment due to the fact that the location of these facilities, require lengthy journeys and therefore due to circumstances unobtainable and for others, be too late?

I urge the veterinary profession to seriously reflect on these issues and I commend those practices still providing their own out of hours service on site for their clients.

Kathleen Pearson, Chairwoman Veterinary Vouchers Charitable Trust Fund.

The Responses

Comment made by a veterinary surgeon, re: out of hours emergency consultation/treatment.

He finds that a high percentage of debts within his practice are incurred from unpaid fees from out of hours emergency treatments especially amongst pet owners not registered with the pratice. He agrees that pratices should have a duty to provide their own emergency, out of hours facilities for clients and that newly qualified vets are aware that it is part of their professional service. However, he feels there should be an onus on the pet owner to make sure they are registered with a pratice.

Hi Kath!

I read your letter regarding the Out of Hours practice. Another point I would like to make is this:

It is stated that if an animal is hospitalised overnight, if it is fit to travel, then it will be taken back to the client's own practice in the morning.

I find that simply appalling, the pet has been through enough already. Also, if the pet is NOT transported back to its own vet then the owner is in a quandary regarding visiting or phoning. I know that one of the main emergency practices is Armac in Bury. What if the owner doesn't have a car? What if they are not used to the area? It is totally different driving there in the dark with a sick animal and having to go in the daytime with all the rush-hour traffic. Also, it is a bloody long way from the edges of Saddleworth Moor to Bury when you are worried sick.

I just find the whole thing absolutely distasteful. When anyone in one of the emergency/medical/veterinary professions starts training they KNOW that nights and weekends are part and parcel of the job.

Does it also mean that there are to be even more extortionate out of hours costs?

Luckily, Stewart finds the whole idea unacceptable and the whole 24 hours is covered by him and his own staff.

Best wishes.

Jean Collinson