The outer steppes of…. Norfolk

Yurts, Burnham Deepdale, NorfolkI now have some idea of what Dorothy must have felt like during the storm that ultimately saw her transported to Oz. This story does not involve lions, tin men or yellow brick roads. It does, however, feature seals, warm ale and a long, winding coastal road.

The weekend that has just passed saw a few good friends and I sample life as ‘glampers,’ when we headed up to the North Norfolk coast in order to spend a couple of nights living it up in a yurt. For those of you who have no idea what one is then the first thing to point out is that it is not a sea-faring vessel, which one of my colleagues assumed it was (she thought I was just pronouncing ‘yacht’ in a particularly plummy accent), although given the prevailing conditions over the weekend it very well may have had this assumption tested. It is in fact a large, round canvas hut, with a domed roof (ours was the red one in the picture above), and the one we stayed in was based on the type of accommodation apparently favoured by those living on the steppes of Mongolia. The site at which we stayed, Burnham Deepdale, have a few of these yurts, all arranged in a line, along with some teepees and set up perfectly for groups to maximise the potential of the glorious Norfolk coastal weather. When it turns up. Each yurt had it’s own decking area in front of it, complete with barbeque and seating, and although a short but bracing walk away, the site was well serviced, including showers that certainly top any that I have experienced at a campsite.

Inside the yurt, Norfolk, Burnham DeepdaleEach also has it’s own wood-burning stove, which I have been told normally raises the temperature in them to a very comfortable level very swiftly. However, it seems that our experiences of first-time yurt living were uncharacteristically testing, as I shall explain….

When you think of booking what is in effect a camping trip, albeit ‘posh camping,’ you would be forgiven, and normally rewarded, for assuming that the last weekend in April would be a good bet for fine, classically Spring-like conditions. We made that assumption. Nature, in it’s role as a moody, unpredictable creature, clearly felt compelled to throw a small tantrum, with the weekend of the 27th – 29th April being a good window in which to hurl it’s insults. Cue a weekend of pissing rain, strong winds, which saw the yurt very nearly test it’s kite qualities on Saturday night, and bracing cold, that even a greedy and subsequently well-fed wood burner couldn’t tame. Another thing which added to the overall scene and experience was the fact that yurts act as climatic amplifiers, which means to say that if it is spitting lightly outside, then the sound inside will be that of a monsoon. If there is a brisk wind then the yurt will amplify that to hurricane-status for the auditory sakes of it’s inhabitants. My advice, as such, would be to take a set of ear plugs if you stay in one in anything other than perfect weather, especially if you are a light or easily disturbed sleeper. Our yurt was moving, and rattling, and generally groaning so much on the second night that we even lost two members of our group, who opted to leave not only the yurt but the campsite and drive home at 3am. This after only arriving at 2pm. Classic British camping holiday!

In spite of the insanely grey, wet, and generally shite weather – uncharacteristic I might add for Norfolk in Spring – the entire experience was ace. It could have been sunnier but spending a weekend with good mates, drinking great Norfolk ale, eating superb food, such as locally caught seafood, seeing some of the natural wonders of the area, such as the Blakeney seals, and generally just having fun, it really doesn’t matter how you do those things – they’re still cracking experiences and fond memories. Would I do it again? Yes, I definately would but I think I would be aiming squarely in the middle of the high season (ie SUMMER), just to be sure 🙂 Oh, and to top it off the sun promptly came out of hiding on Sunday evening. Once everyone had returned home. Couldn’t make it up.

“Any top tips?” you say. Well, yes. Here they are…

  • Where to stayBurnham Deepdale. Well managed site, with a hostel, camping pitches, teepees and the oh-so-famous yurts.
  • Where to eat – The White Horse & Jolly Sailors pubs, both a short walk from the campsite, are excellent. The former does a cracking breakfast, and has stunning views out to sea, with the latter doing amazing pizzas.
  • What to drinkThe Real Ale Shop, near Wells. A superb range of Norfolk ales and situated on a lovely little farm.
  • What to do – so many options! We went out on a seal-spotting trip at Blakeney, took in the quaint tea-shops of Burnham Market, missed a bus in Wells and got our sealife and bowling fixes in Hunstanton. Add decent weather and the beaches become the obvious draw.

 

Yurt advice:

  1. Unless you know that it’s going to be scorching weather, pack as you would for any camping trip as it can get quite chilly.
  2. Take extra light sources. Loads of people make the mistake of assuming they have electricity, due to the fact that they look and feel like buildings. They don’t so take a couple of lamps to add to the one that the site provide.
  3. Ask for extra wood when you arrive. Running out at 10pm on a freezing cold, blustery Saturday night is not ideal.
  4. Consider booking two adjacent yurts if there is going to be more than, say, five of you going. Although they can officially accommodate 8 people, it would be snug so best to pay more per person and not be packed in like sardines.
  5. Take ear plugs – they are pretty noisy structures but very sturdy, so don’t worry; it’s only noise.
  6. Enjoy yourself – they’re a very comfortable and fun way to camp, and a great base for the North Norfolk coast.

Veterinary with an International Flavour

La Facultad de Veterinaria, MadridWhat is veterinary like in other countries? This is a question that I am sure most of us interested or actively engaged in the profession have asked ourselves at least once in our lives. The opportunity to answer such a question often comes in the decision to undertake voluntary charity work with animals overseas, often in underprivileged parts of the world where the resources available are significantly fewer than the relative luxury we are used to in the UK. But what of our more developed neighbours and veterinary partners? What goes on in their neck of the woods? I had the chance to peek under the hood, as it were, when I was in Madrid recently after deciding that I wanted to check out the Madrid vet school. Some might argue that taking time out of a holiday to go and seek out more vets is a little sad but I disagree and in fact the experience was richly rewarding on a number of levels.

I was aware that Madrid University had a vet school and had decided before heading out for a few days that I wanted, if possible, to arrange just a short visit, purely on account of being nosey really. Being able to speak a little Spanish, I promptly pinged off an email asking politely if it were possible to arrange a visit. Unfortunately – likely on account of the email address I used being a ‘general vet school’ address, which probably meant my email ended up lost in a sea of other messages and promptly deleted – I didn’t receive any response. Next plan was to give the vet school a call once over in Spain and make polite enquiries, which I did. Now, although I can speak Spanish and my understanding isn’t too bad, I do have difficulties understanding conversations on the phone. As a result my phone call ended in an awkward silence and the phone being replaced on the receiver, with me none the wiser as to whether my introduction of “Hola. Me llamo Chris y soy veterinario de Ingleterra. Yo estoy en este momento en Madrid en vacaciones y quisiera visitar la facultad de veterinaria si posible,” was received positively or with indifference.

Not ready to be beaten I made the decision to head out to the university campus, a short metro trip out of the main centre of Madrid, and find the vet school in order that I might ask in person and hopefully get my wish of a tour. Of course, Murphy’s Law stated that the faculty of veterinary science was the one department the furthest away on the outskirts of the campus, and so a fairly decent walk, which very nearly saw my dad and I wander naively into the main government site, and we found it.

Although not immediately stunning, in the same way that many of our vet school buildings and campuses are here in the UK, the vet school reveals itself in stately fashion, as you round the corner from the road, and is best appreciated on the approach over the bridge that connects the two sides of the university campus. I was, however, very impressed with how friendly and inviting people were, especially considering the fact that we literally, in effect, turned up out of the blue and uninvited and yet were still permitted to take the time to explore the vet school, including the impressively well stocked and very popular library, complete with an excellent array of the latest professional journals. We were, however, a bit late in the day to see anything at the actual hospital, although an invite to return the

La Facultad de Veterinario
Me with Almudena Rodríguez

following morning was duly taken up and we were granted the honour of being shown around the entire veterinary hospital, including the small animal, farm, equine and laboratory departments – literally everything! Our guide was a lovely lady by the name of Almudena Rodríguez, who was very generous and patient, taking the time out from her no-doubt busy morning to show these two strange British visitors around one of the lesser explored of Madrid’s sights. ¡Extraño!

The main feature of the Madrid veterinary hospital which is different to Bristol, which is where I studied, and to many of the UK vet schools, is that the departments were all housed effectively under one roof, with the small animal, farm and equine sections continuing seamlessly into one another. I personally liked this fact and I can imagine that it provides for much more effective cross-specialisation communication. Madrid’s vet school has all the clinical toys that you’d expect in any UK university hospital, with a great digital radiography suite and MRI on site, to spacious and well equipped small animal consultation rooms, which we were advised can accomodate student teaching groups of up to 15 at any one time – quite an audience for a consult!

The great thing for me, personally, apart from getting a unique chance to see behind the scenes at a busy European vet school, was the fact that the entire tour was conducted in Spanish, and so provided an excellent opportunity to really exercise and practice my language skills, in a veterinary context as well. It was cool, especially as I swear the sheep we encountered in the large animal hospital even bleated with an accent!

It’s good to be reminded that we are a member of a truly international profession, all working towards the same goal of improved animal health and welfare, regardless of language barriers or other such differences. If spending time plying your trade in more exotic climes is something that appeals to you then there are lots of opportunities to travel, including even spending time during your veterinary training at a non-UK vet school. The following UK vet schools offer the chance to spend part of the course studying in another country, which is awesome:

  1. Glasgow
  2. Edinburgh – options to study abroad are available
  3. Liverpool – offer the chance to apply to spend up to 3 months in 4th and final year undertaking clinical rotations in Helsinki, Finland. There are discussions in place to arrange similar opportunities in both France and Germany.
  4. Nottingham – options to study abroad are available
  5. Bristol & RVC (London) – not clear if it is possible

Another fact that often seems to pass vet students over, myself included at the time, and which is a crying shame, is the fact that most universities offer free, or certainly massively well subsidised, language tuition to their undergraduates – a golden opportunity if ever there was one! One of my year group took up this opportunity in second year and thus graduated after five years with both a vet degree and fluent in Mandarin Chinese. What a passport to the world she now has! If I were to turn the clock back then I would certainly have signed up – imagine being a vet who can speak Spanish, Chinese AND English. The world would be a much smaller, comfortable place with infinitely more opportunities. Anyway, I digress somewhat…

So, the key message is that veterinary is a truly global, international profession and the world is waiting for those willing and wanting to take the proverbial plunge. Good luck.

 

For more information on vet careers and to check out the book, Vet School, go to www.myfootinthedoor.co.uk

Una vista de Madrid

plaza de la cibeles, MadridMe gusta mucho España y tambien viajar. For those of you with some knowledge of the Spanish language I daresay you probably agree. For those of you wondering what on earth the first sentence even means, it translates as “I like Spain very much, and also travelling.” I have just landed back after a short trip to Madrid in Spain, a city that has long been on my list of places to visit, and was suitably impressed, enthralled, charmed and generally won over by the city, it’s vibrancy and the amazing people that both live and visit there.

The guidebooks all talk about Madrid being one of those cities that kind of creeps up on you, especially given the fact that it doesn’t perhaps have many of the “world wonder” type sights as say other major cities (eg Paris, London, New York). This, however, means that instead of having a few ‘must sees,’ Madrid has vista bonita after vista bonita round every corner and above every Metro stop. I traveled with my dad, who despite not speaking any of the language, has become as enthused about the Spanish culture and country as I have, and we were happy to spend a lot of our time simply meandering around the city, including it’s beautiful park, taking in the atmosphere and breaking up such jaunts with regular stops for tapas and a couple of cheeky little drinks, whether it were a refreshing Spanish cerveza, a rich, full-bodied wine or sherry, or just a sedate coffee. In fact, eating and drinking your way around Madrid is not only insanely easy to do, it feels like it would be wrong not to, given the incredible number of phenominal options available to do so.

The main highlights of our trip, I would say, were the following. It would interesting to hear what your experiences of the city have been as well, especially as I know for a fact that it has heaps more to offer than the little we managed in just a few days, and it would be great to be able to start compiling the ultimate Madrid ‘to-do’ list in preparation!

  1. Flamenco & Tapas – we were fortunate enough to get our fix of both on the very first evening, with one of the best places in the city to see amazing flamenco being Casa Patas, near the Tirso de Molina metro station. The initial meal was outstanding, served in the stunning main restaurant, complete with hanging jamóns (hams) and photograph after photograph of flamenco stars both past and present. The actual performance itself was held in an intimate room adjacent to the bar, creating a dark and intense atmosphere for what was an equally intense performance. I have seen flamenco before but never with such a level of passion being evident from the musicians, singers and dancers alike. The result is that you find yourself instinctively joining in with the cries of “Olé!” that often accompany parts of the performance, and wanting to buy yourself a pair of flamenco shoes, move to Madrid, change your name to José and devote yourself to the art. Having said that, I think that may just be a reflection of the reaction I feel to most great gigs. Definately one to check out though.
  2. cochinillo, madrid, el restaurante de san botinSuckling pig at the “world’s oldest restaurant” – one thing that it seems is most definately on the list of ‘things you should do in Madrid’ is to eat suckling pig, with el restaurante Sobrino de Botín, close to La Plaza Mayor, recognised as one of the best places in which to do so, likely due to the fact that they have been doing it well for the longest. Since 1725 in fact! After a gentlemanly haircut – it’s what one does when on holiday in such a fine city – it seemed the natural thing to do was to pop next door to sample one of the culinary delights of Madrid – and there are many! We had been expecting the cochinillo to arrive at the table in it’s entire, full form, as per the pictures shown in various guidebooks but the fact that it didn’t (we each had a leg, roasted to perfection) was a blessing, as the amount of food it would have represented would have required us to fly the rest of the family out to help finish it. We were told that another thing to try at the same restaurant is the roast suckling lamb, so it seems a return trip has already been factored in.
  3. Parque del Buen Retiro – one of the things I personally love about capital cities, London included, is the access to incredible areas of parkland that is possible. The main park in Madrid is clearly a strong draw for both locals and visitors alike, from people simply enjoying a leisurely stroll, often with their dog, or kicking back and taking in the cool, calm air with a book, all the way through to the more active recreationists, with running, cycling and even a spot of rollerblade-ultimate-frizbee being played. It made me wish I had taken my training gear with me, but then there is always the next time!
  4. mercado de san miguel, MadridEl mercado de San Miguel – this charming covered market, which sits just beyond Plaza Mayor, was one of those places that you end up happening upon by chance, as opposed to actively seeking out, and ended up being somewhere we returned to several times during our stay. Both modern, in terms of it’s light, open design, with glass doors and windows all the way around, yet traditional, with a plethora of incredible stalls selling everything from beautifully crafted and presented chocolates and cakes, to fresh seafood and meats that were about as fresh as it possibly could be without them jumping out at you, to an amazing array of fine Spanish wines, beers and, one of our favourites, sherries. A popular draw for both tourists and madrileños alike to meet up with friends and chat over some tapas and a drink, the market was certainly a favourite of the trip.
  5. La facultad de Veterinario – yes, we did. Although officially on holiday, I had said to myself that it would be really interesting to head over to the university and, if possible, check out the vet school and adjoining hospital. In spite of not managing to pre-arrange a visit and thus simply ‘turning up’, we received an incredibly warm and hospitable welcome, and were given a fantastic tour of the facilities at the vet school. A rare treat and one that will be the subject of a blog post to follow soon.

As alluded to earlier, Madrid is such a rich city in terms of culture, heritage and charm, that to list and describe every highlight would fill many books. Suffice to say that if you’re looking for an exciting destination for a city stay, whether it be for a quieter, more relaxed experience, or one offering a vibrant party scene, then Madrid definately is one to put near the top of the list.

 

Go go Gadget, go!

Inspector Gadget, Go Gadget, Go
"Go Gadget, Go!"

Are you a gadget gourmet? A purveyor of all things gadgety, techy and, well, just awesome? Yeah? Me too. Friday thus saw me in somewhat of my idea of Heaven on Earth as I attended the Gadget Show Live, held at the NEC in Birmingham. Attending the day after having gone to BSAVA meant that my week was feeling more and more like a ‘professional holiday’ (if such a thing exists) – not a bad way to spend a week in April. The show certainly seemed to be popular, with thousands of other eager gadget enthusiasts all piling into the large halls that served as home for 5 days to a plethora of tech talk, demonstrations, a fair amount of ‘retail’ and, of course, the main event itself, the live show.

One thing I would say at this stage is that I did perhaps expect to discover a few more real innovations and “WOW” factor technologies than I did, with a lot of the exhibitors tending to fall more in to the category of standard electronics retailers, whether it be trying to flog us a new TV, games console, or accessory for our iPhones, iPads and other such existing gadgetry. Having said that, the standard of displays, stands, demonstrations, activities and talks was superb and it was pretty easy to fill an entire day. As mentioned, the live show was certainly the main highlight, with a fantastically well choreographed and stage-managed show that served up a good balanced meal of fun features, such as Laser Man, the robotic bird from the incredible talents at Festo, and the larger than life 3D faces of our hosts, to numerous chances to win big and bag some tech to take home, with the legendary Gadget Show competitions. The winners all would have gone home with a significantly bigger smile than everyone else, and that’s really saying something!

My mission, as it were, was really just to head along for the day with an open mind and see what was new, fresh and exciting, especially with a view to what might have interesting applications to veterinary and animal healthcare. Afterall, I am The Nerdy Vet so wearing both my nerd and vet hats felt normal 🙂 There were certainly a few stand-out exhibitors for me, with the main ones of note being the following:

1. Aurasma – a ‘virtual browser’ that enables you to hold your smartphone or tablet up to a particular piece of media, or real-life scene (eg a magazine, CD case or poster) and for additional ‘content’, whether it be video, a link to a website, or something even more interesting and unexpected, to appear on the screen overlaid in real-time. This is an example of AR (Augmented Reality) and clearly has some interesting potential for those of us in the veterinary field.

2. Damson – really funky, compact little portable speaker with a difference. Using resonance technology, these little noise-makers work wirelessly to play music and other audio from any Bluetooth enabled-device, such as an iPod, and basically makes use of the surface on which it is placed as a speaker. The effect is to instantly take a small sound when held in the hand and transform, for example, a table, fridge, or indeed any surface or structure into a speaker, boosting the sound. Definately elicted some “wows” from friends and colleagues at the practice.

3. FitBit – this stand seemed to be literally buzzing with activity and it was clear to see why. Their product, a small wireless smart sensor that tracks your activity over the course of the day and then uses some clever algorithms to track, record and analyse various health and fitness parameters seems set to really help in the battle of the bulge. The actual devices themselves are tiny – about the size of a USB dongle – and can even track how well you sleep. Very very cool. And judging by how well they were selling, very very popular.

There were other innovations and I plan to serve a few more of them up in greater detail over the course of the next week or so. If you’re thinking of going next year to The Gadget Show then my advice would certainly be, in the immortal words of Ben Stiller, to just “do it.”

Finding Your Element

Vet school, coverI have recently finished listening to an inspiring audiobook called ‘The Element,’ written by the educational reformist and speaker, Dr Ken Robinson. The premise of the book is that each of us has something that we were, in effect, meant to do and that sees us truly in our element when we are doing that activity. Everyone’s element is different: some may find it in their career, others in their recreation activities. One of the major messages of the book is the concern that our current, long established systems of education actually act to move a lot of people away from their element and these people may be in danger of spending their lives never fully fulfilled and truly happy. It is difficult to really give a full and accurate review of the book in a short blog introduction and I think it suffices to say that it is excellent and that I have no hesitation in thoroughly recommending it as one of those must-read books and the type that you probably should revisit at regular points during your life.

Why am I talking about such a book, you may be wondering? Well, the reason is that I started listening to it whilst travelling up to Nottingham where I spent two days at the university both lecturing to and making my book, Vet School, available to young people interested in learning more about a career in veterinary. This is something I have been doing for a number of years now and it really dawned on me this year that the thing I really get a buzz out of is the actual lecturing itself. I can’t quite put my finger on what aspect of presenting provides the biggest reward and thus keeps me coming back for more. Is it the thrill of getting the right laughs at the right time? Maybe its the look of rapt concentration and engagement that develops on the audience members’ faces, the key aim I am sure of any speaker. The fun of taking what can otherwise be a set of dull, monotone subjects – Cancer in Animals, Parasites (especially at 10 o’clock at night!), Clinical History Taking, for example – and through careful consideration of what will actually engage your audience, craft a fun, entertaining yet educational, and hopefully inspiring talk? Then again, it could just be the sheer performance of it all. The opportunity to don a set of scrubs, show some funny videos and just, well, have some fun on stage. In truth, I think I would have to say that I love doing them for all of those reasons and it really dawned on me this year more than before.

The audience is a key ingredient, of course, and having the privilege of being able to speak with students who clearly have a hunger for knowledge and driving passion for their ultimate goal of getting into vet school makes the entire process that much more enjoyable and rewarding. The pressures on them to excel are getting greater and greater, with the obstacles that seem to be placed before them ever more numerous and large in scale. They are the true heroes of our profession as without their dogged determination and laser-like focus and unwavering commitment to their ultimate goal, the profession would not be able to continue to grow, develop and improve in the way it has, does and will, I am sure, continue to do so for many generations to come.

The pleasure of writing Vet School and making it available is one of, hopefully, being able to make the path towards a place at Vet School a little less of an arduous journey and to lend much needed support to those who may otherwise feel themselves slipping from the path towards their true passion. Now, I am not going to claim that the book has all the answers or that buying it will somehow come with a magic, ‘get in free’ ticket, because clearly it will not. Instead, I like to think of Vet School and My Foot In The Door as being rather like a sherpa acting as a guide up the treacherous slopes of Everest, offering valuable insight and guidance but not able to carry the full burden of responsibility for the climber’s own monumental feats of determination, savvy and grit to reach the summit. In my own personal view, every great journey and every great destination reached has its significance, enjoyment and sense of satisfaction magnified many-fold when it is shared. I think that’s what keeps me engaged in writing and why I genuinely enjoy getting to talk with and offer advice, as far as I am able, to those looking to enter our profession. That and getting to make funny videos 🙂

The Overcharging Vets Myth

I was a little disappointed recently to read a certain celebrity vet’s blog post about ‘overcharging vets.’ Despite a couple of sentences that attempted to act as somewhat of a balancer by ‘hoping that their view is coloured by bad personal experience’ and acknowledging that not all vets overcharge, I couldn’t help but feel that the comments were misguided, unhelpful and may simply act to further add to the list of grievances, both reasonable and unreasonable, that some may wish to level at the veterinary profession, whom the vast majority of the general public still imagine rake it in and live the lives of monied privilege, whilst the opposite is usually the case.

Although it is undoubtedly true that some vets may be tempted to propose additional tests and treatments that may ultimately, in hindsight, prove to be somewhat superfluous, I firmly believe that the motives for 99.9% of vets to make recommendations and suggest preventatives, procedures and other treatments are clinical, sound and ethical, with little or no concern for their own material gain. Granted that with the introduction by some veterinary employers of incentive schemes and bonuses linked to things like turnover, some individuals may feel the pressure to over-emphasise certain options in the pursuit of a boost to their salaries. However, if the vet in question is paid appropriately for their skills and expertise then I don’t see how the potential promise of a few extra quid in the monthly pay packet can really lead to their clinical morals becoming corrupted. If they’re the kind of person who is overly motivated by money then they probably wont spend a lengthy career in veterinary anyway and will probably work out that there are significantly easier, and possibly less stressful, ways of making themselves rich than trying to fleece the pet owning public. Personally I don’t view financial incentive schemes as being a particularly great idea in veterinary as I fear that they do introduce the risk of conflicts of interest developing, even if those conflicts never actually manifest themselves. Most organisations that employ turnover based bonus schemes use them as a means by which to justify keeping base salaries towards the lower end of the scale, especially as vets on lower salaries can “earn more of a bonus as a result if they exceed their monthly turnover targets,” due to the difference between the target monthly turnover figure, usually based on the current salary and the actual monthly turnover figure achieved, which can ultimately vary with the cases that walk in the door that month. I had a debate about exactly this when trying to negotiate a perfectly reasonable salary increase with my first employer a year after graduating and starting work as a vet. I ultimately left as a result of their refusal to appropriately value my training, skills and experience, preferring to espouse the apparent merits and “additional earning power” of the bonus scheme. Myself and my colleagues at that practice, and others that I have since worked at, did not make clinical recommendations because option A was going to make us an extra £15 compared to option B, but instead used our training and judgement as vets to discuss the various options with the owner and ultimately make recommendations, with the owner ultimately making the decision having felt satisfied that they were getting value for money.

The example given by the author of a friend whose dog was taken to the vets suffering from “mild intermittent digestive upsets for a while” and subsequently received a bill for £1700, which was then derided for being unjustifiable and clearly motivated by profit seemed to me to be one-sided, emotive and jumped to a number of conclusions, which was unfair to air publically without offering the vet in question the opportunity to justify the charges. There was no mention of the dog’s previous treatments or the nature of the digestive upsets that had been the problem. Nor did it make clear whether the owner had been involved in any discussion about the investigation options, including potential costs, and thus whether in spite of the final amount being quite a lot and the ultimate diagnosis – note that a diagnosis was reached – being fairly benign (hindsight is a wonderful thing), the owner knowingly consented to the range of investigations carried out and their cost. If not then yes, there is a problem, but that problem is one of proper client communication and customer care, not of profiteering. £1700 is not a lot of money for such an exhaustive, all encompassing investigation into a problem that by the sounds of it had been grumbling on for a good while. The alternative, of course, could have been to conduct the various tests over a longer period of time, but then that may have involved having to administer multiple anaesthetics (additional cost and risk to the patient), and may have simply served to prolong the period that the animal was suffering from the problem and the course of supportive therapy, such as prescription diets, that may have been used in the interim. The result? That the final bill would have potentially been significantly greater than £1700 and that the vet is accused of dragging the entire process out in order to maximise profit. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

People talk a lot more with each other than they ever used to and one result of this is that if there is something that people don’t like, whether it be poor service or excessive charging, then it is not long before everyone is made aware and if the issue is not addressed then the individual or organisation runs the risk of being adversely affected, especially if the messages are consistently poor. Vets that overcharge – and it is easy to ascertain whether this is the case by comparison with other vets, offering a similar service – will find that word gets out and they will either have to bring their prices and practices in line with their professional peers or risk not remaining in business for very long. As such, I simply don’t believe that overcharging is a real problem in veterinary medicine. In fact, I think that pet owners get a very good deal considering that they have access to exceptional standards of private medicine, often with the convenience, clinical and cost advantages of same-day diagnoses and treatments, especially when you compare that humans pay many times more for similar tests and procedures privately themselves.

I will be very interested to hear the kind of stories that are submitted to the author and predict that he will undoubtedly receive an electronic sackful of complaints and countless accounts of “profiteering” within the veterinary profession. However, what I suspect won’t be accompanying those stories are clear, detailed explanations for why various treatments, tests and procedures were advised, what the animals’ previous histories were, or whether the options were clearly discussed, explained and ultimately consented to, including knowledge of potential costs. Incidentally, you don’t see many vets driving Aston Martins, living in mansions or sending their kids to Eton, so I do wonder where all of these scurulous profiteers are hiding out?