How Life has changed at Priory Vet Group during Lockdown
Like everyone in these unprecedented times we have found our daily routine turned completely upside down and we have had to make drastic changes to the way we work in order to comply with government restrictions.
We have had to close our doors to the general public but let us assure you there is a hive of activity inside to ensure that we can still provide care and support for your pets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In an effort to comply with social distancing measures we have reduced the number of staff at each branch to a core team with some working from home. We are using remote consultations where possible to assess and treat our patients, using telephone or video platforms to communicate (don’t worry, if we can do it so can you!).
We have developed some FAQs which we hope will help you navigate your pet’s healthcare in the coming months.
1) Where are you getting your advice from?
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of the veterinary profession who regulate clinical standards and provide guidance on professional conduct. They have produced guidance on what work we should be doing during this time.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has developed further clarification on how to interpret this guidance and host weekly webinars which update the profession on the current situation.
2) What is the best way to contact your team during lockdown?
Due to our reduced staffing at the hospital we are requesting that where possible you email us at email@example.com for any non-urgent questions/queries. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
If you have an emergency or are calling to pay for a prescription please call the normal number 01202 484466 between 9am and 5pm. If you are calling outside our opening times please call the above number which will then direct you to our out of hours answer service.
**Please tell our staff if you or anyone in your household is showing symptoms of coronavirus so that special provisions can be made to keep everyone as safe as possible**
3) My pet needs more medication (including flea and worming treatment), how do I go about getting this?
Medication requests need to be submitted via our website form or emailed to us at firstname.lastname@example.org please to free up our phone line for emergencies. Please as precise as you can and include the following information:
-your address and contact phone number
-your pets name (including the surname they are registered under)
-what products you would like and how many of each
– whether you would like them posted (£5 postage fee) or put up for collection from Christchurch
For flea and worming products, we will usually dispense 3 months’ worth of products at a time to reduce the number of visits to the hospital.
We will send you an email or call you directly when your request has been processed. In the interests of maintaining social distancing we are asking our clients to pay for their products by card over the phone prior to collection/postage.
Please allow 24hours for flea and worming products and 48hours for other medications to be ready for collection. Postage is Royal Mail 1st class so please allow 3-5 working days for delivery.
4) Where do I collect the medications from?
At the moment all medications are being collected from our main Christchurch hospital in Purewell. To reduce the risk to our clients we ask that you call us from your car when you arrive and one of our team will bring your order out to our prescription collection points located at the front and side of the hospital.
5) I think my pet needs to see a vet; can you see him/her?
Under current guidance we are restricted to only seeing in person pets that require emergency attention, or have conditions that if left untreated would likely deteriorate into an emergency. If you think your animal requires emergency care please call 01202 484466. To reflect the extra time we are spending with each patient due to the difficulties associated with social distancing measures we are charging £48 for an in person consult at our hospital.
If the problem is not an emergency but still warrants veterinary attention for the welfare of your animal then it is likely we will advise a phone or video consultation. This includes any prescription check-ups as we are still obliged to check any animal on long-term medications under RCVS regulations to prove that they are “under our direct care”. In these instances, please call the hospital on 01202 484466 to arrange an appointment. Please do not be put off if you are on hold, we are answering calls as quickly as we can but at peak times there may be a short delay.
The cost of a phone or video consultation is £34, payable at the time of booking. If the vet decides that we need to see your pet in person this payment will go towards the face-to-face consultation. From our experiences so far, it has been extremely helpful if photographs and videos can be emailed to email@example.com prior to the consult. These images are particularly useful for cases where you have concerns about lesions or wounds on the skin or lameness/ behavioural concerns. Please also read our article on “Remote consulting – how to make the most of our video consults”.
6) I was told before lockdown that you could not prescribe remotely, what’s changed now?
The RCVS have adjusted some of their regulations regarding remote prescribing to enable us to follow the lockdown guidance whilst still providing care for our patients. This means that our vets can prescribe certain medications following a remote consultation if they are satisfied there has been sufficient information gained from the call to safely justify prescription medication.
7) I’m not very good with technology, can I still have a remote consultation?
Don’t worry, there were many of us who had never taken a video call before Covid-19 and yet it seems strange to think of a world before Zoom! We have been doing a mixture of telephone and video consults so please ask for whichever you feel more comfortable with. At the moment we are using video apps such as Facetime, WhatsApp and Zoom as we feel these are the most used already by our clients. All you need is an internet connection and a computer, tablet or smart phone and we will call you directly or send you a link to join. Please read our “Remote consulting – how to make the most of our video consults” article for more information.
8) My pet has an ongoing condition, can I see/speak to my normal vet?
Unfortunately, as with many independent small businesses in the present economic climate, we have had to furlough a number of our staff including some vets. Our remaining clinical staff have been split into small teams to reduce the number of staff in the hospital. This means it may not be possible to see your normal vet. However, please be assured that our staff are communicating regularly and keeping accurate notes of your conversations to help other vets take up where they left off.
9) What will happen when I bring my pet to the hospital?
For consultations please park at the side of the building at our inpatient entrance. For your protection we ask that you call us from your car to let us know you have arrived and stay in your car. Please keep your mobile on you so that our vet can contact you when they are ready to take a history (if not already taken via remote consultation). They will then invite you to approach the door where they will take your animals in. Please make sure that all dogs are on a lead with a secure collar; we will ask you to attach their lead to our dog park on the wall and step away 2 metres before our vet approaches. Please make sure that cats are in secure carriers which can then be placed on the floor for our vet to pick up in a similar manner. Please wait in your car while your pet in in the hospital and keep your mobile on you at all times.
Your pet will then be taken into our hospital where they will be held by one of our nurses while the vet examines your animal and takes any blood samples etc that have been previously agreed.
Our vet will then call you again to discuss their findings and treatment plan. Any medication will be dispensed and payment will be taken over the phone before discharging your pet to avoid multiple journeys in and out of the hospital.
10) My pet needs its vaccination, can I still get this done?
The RCVS have advised that we may perform vaccinations if there is a significant risk to the animal’s welfare if left unvaccinated. This means that we must assess each case individually and apply our knowledge of the local area to that risk assessment. We are running vaccination clinics on certain days. Please be aware you will not be able to be with your pet for the vaccination and that we may not be able to be as flexible as we would like with appointments.
See our vaccination article for more information.
Please email us when requesting vaccination appointments to keep our phone lines free for emergencies.
11) Are you still running Nurses clinics for clip nails and anal glands?
Unfortunately, under the RCVS guidance we are not allowed to run these clinics for routine concerns. If you feel it is safe and you are confident doing these procedures at home then please do. Sadly, we are only able to see these patients if there are welfare concerns e.g. nails growing into a pad or intense irritation/self-trauma resulting from anal gland problems.
12) Are you still performing operations?
The government has asked us to preserve anaesthetics and oxygen supplies as much as possible during this pandemic. We are taking this request very seriously and we have already donated some of our oxygen canisters to our NHS counterparts who desperately need these resources to care for the very sick covid-19 patients.
We are therefore limiting ourselves to emergency surgeries only, or those procedures which, if delayed, may affect animal welfare e.g. those multi-cat multi-gender households which may result in undesirable pregnancies in very young cats.
For male dogs, there is an implant which achieves chemical castration for up to 12 months. We ask that all bitches be kept indoors during their season or, at the very least, be kept on a short lead at all times during exercise.
The need for procedures such as lump removals will be assessed on an individual basis.
We will not be performing any routine dental work during the lockdown period. We will only perform dental treatment if your pet is showing signs of discomfort from dental disease where alternative treatments are not appropriate.
13) What happens if my pet needs putting to sleep?
This is, understandably a great source of anxiety for some our clients and a hugely emotive subject for all involved. We have put together an in-depth article on euthanasia during the lockdown period which we hope will help you prepare better for what may happen and reduce some of the anxiety you may be feeling at this difficult time.
14) I am self-isolating, can I arrange a visit for a vet to look at my pet?
We regret that we are not able to offer visits at this time apart from in exceptional circumstances.
This is partly so that we can minimize the risk to our staff and prevent unnecessary journeys but also as a result of only having small teams working each day and therefore not having the resources available to do visits.
Ideally, we would like to be able to address your concerns via a remote consult and post any medication needed to you. If this is not possible, we would advise asking a family member or a neighbour to bring your pet to the hospital for you. We can then discuss your pet’s treatment with you over the phone.
**It is very important that you tell us if you, or anyone in your household, is showing symptoms of Covid-19 so that we can make special arrangements. You should follow government guidance at all times and we will do our best to advise you on how we can meet your pets needs during this time**
This is a continuously changing situation and we are trying to do the best for our clients’ pets as well as follow the government/RCVS guidance in order to help the NHS and save lives. We will endeavour to keep you up to date with all the changes of policy over the ongoing months on our website and Facebook page.
We would like to thank you all of our clients for your patience and understanding in these unprecedented times.