Joe Inglis on the relationship between vet and client
Like many small businesses, vet surgeries thrive on gossip, and whilst many vets would argue that it’s the nurses and receptionists who do most of the nattering, us vets are often as guilty of gossiping as the rest of the team.
From the goings on in the private life of the staff, and frustrations of awkward clients, to more mundane topics such as the weekend’s football scores or even the weather, a steady stream of gossip can be found in most practices around the country.
When I was in practice in Carterton I spent a lot of time talking football with Megan, one of the nurses. Megan’s a passionate Chelsea fan (I support Arsenal, so there’s not much common ground between us on that subject!), and we often found ourselves having heated debates about the rights and wrongs of the weekend’s refereeing decisions or managerial blunders as I operated, and she monitored the anaesthetic. Obviously complex operations or difficult anaesthetics made us concentrate 100% on the job in hand, but when spaying the third cat of the morning, or doing other routine work, a good natter helped pass the time and as in many jobs, also helped build a friendly atmosphere and bring the team together (expect when Arsenal played Chelsea of course!)
The subject matter of operating theatre gossip can sometime move on from sport to more serious matters however, and I remember one particularly uneventful morning’s operating list, with nothing but routine cat spays and castrations, when football gave way to a very different topic – vets’ fees. Megan brought the subject up after watching a documentary on the subject the previous night which showed some really shocking footage of vets effectively conning clients into having over-priced and often unnecessary work done on their pets. Although I didn’t catch the programme, it is something I’ve long been aware of, and had previously reported on The One Show for the BBC on the issue of overcharging by vets.
As we finished up in the operating theatre that morning, we agreed that the main problem seemed to be the lack of accountability in the veterinary profession, especially where fees are concerned, rather than specifically the fees themselves. Pet owners trust their vets to give them sound, honest advice in the best interests of their pets, but sadly, there are less scrupulous vets out there whose main motivation appears to be money rather than the welfare of their patients. From overcharging for routine work, to advising unnecessary operations such as dentistry, and even charging for work that’s not done, as was the case in one example on the documentary, there seem to be many ways that rogue vets can exploit the trust of their clients for their own financial gain.
Thankfully vets like this are few and far between, and the vast majority are honest and do put the pet before profit – but it only takes a few unscrupulous vets to tarnish the reputation of the profession and make pet owners concerned and less willing to trust their vets, which is very sad for all concerned.
So, what can be done about it? Well, as our conversation continued in between consultations that afternoon, the germ of an idea was born somewhere in my mind. And it was this idea that was instrumental in the design of the practice I set up a few years later in Swindon called Vet’s Klinic, where transparency and value for money are core principles. In the five years or so since opening, the success of this practice has proved how important it is for vets to tackle the issues of trust and accountability – and also showed that maybe not all gossip is idle gossip after all; some gossip can change the world! N
Joe Inglis at Vet’s Klinic