A day to remember for Strathaven staff - Veterinary Practice
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A day to remember for Strathaven staff

reports on a Scottish practice which was recently honoured by a Royal visit

THE town of Strathaven
(pronounced Straven) is a small
market town in Lanarkshire on the
south side of Glasgow. It sits on the
edge of the Avon valley, a tributary
of the Clyde, and is a rural
community with strong
historical links to the
Covenanters of the
17th Century who
fought against the
English monarchs.

Nowadays it is
surrounded by agricultural land but is also a dormitory town for people who work in the nearby conurbations of East Kilbride, Hamilton and Glasgow.

The name of the veterinary practice
which serves the area, Avondale
Veterinary Group, is relatively new, but
the practice has roots in Strathaven
going back to 1921. The current
partnership of vets Tim Caldwell, Sally
Yuill and Ross Syme was formed in
2005. Back then the practice occupied
two sites in the town, one for small
animal work and another for the equine
and farm animal arms of the group.

Having grown considerably in recent
years, partly by acquisition and partly by
recommendation and reputation, it
eventually became clear that if the
practice was to provide the sort of
services the partners deemed fit for the 21st century it was going to have to
move and modernise. The result is a
one million pound investment in
purpose-built premises on a greenfield
site on the edge of town.

“The beauty of where we are,”
explains Tim Caldwell, “is that there’s plenty of
parking, space for the
surgery and a proper
equine facility, a great
view out to Tinto hill
(one of the local
landmarks), and a
coffee shop next door
at the agricultural
centre. All in all we are very pleased with it.”
The new premises first opened on 3rd August 2009 and the clients are
rightly impressed. A large air-
conditioned waiting room greets them;
appointments are from 10 to 20 minutes
depending on the condition being
investigated; there is a separate prep
area; two positive-pressure clean
operating theatres and another “dirty”
one for dentals; plus digital x-ray,
ultrasound and a host of other in-house

“The digital x-ray is a real asset,”
says Tim. “It’s great to be able to x-ray
an animal and almost immediately be
able to show the owner exactly what is
wrong. And we must be doing
something right because we’ve grown to
a total of 13 vets, six veterinary nurses and two animal
nursing assistants,
plus eight
administration and
support staff
which includes a
full-time practice

As practices go,
Avondale is about
as mixed as they
come. There are
three vets
dedicated solely to
horses, six to small
animals, and four
who largely work
with farm clients,
including a good
mix of dairy, beef
and sheep.

It means that
there are always
three vets on call
out of hours to
cover the three
specialties, plus an
on-call veterinary
nurse on the small
animal side.

As part of its desire to be an integral part of the
community, the practice hosted an open
day for its clients back in June of this
year. It turned into a spectacular success
with a turn out of over 500 people.

“It was a marvellous opportunity to
show our clients what was on offer
behind the scenes,” said practice
manager Alison Summers. “All the staff
mucked in and I can safely say that a
good time was had by all.”

Perhaps the highlight of the year
though arrived just last month when, on
6th September, the practice had a once-
in-a-lifetime experience. The Princess
Royal carried out an official visit, first to
the next door agricultural company, and
then spent 40 minutes or so touring the
veterinary practice.


“I think she made time to speak to
every member of staff present,” said
Tim Caldwell, “and I was really
impressed by how well informed she
was. She was also right on the ball: it
didn’t take her long to work out that the
Labrador bitch Maddie, on which we
demonstrated some ultrasound
procedures, was my own dog and simply
standing in for the day.

“She toured the whole surgery
including the equine block where she
was shown round by two of the three
equine vets, Susan Donaldson and
Kathleen Innes. We showed her the indoor stables with Supersoft Equimat
flooring, the examination stocks and the
CCTV monitoring which means that the
vet on call can keep a watch on things
from the comfort of his or her home.

“Plus we’ve got areas for hard and
soft lungeing. I think she was pretty
impressed by it all and she was very
keen to ask about the conditions and
treatment of the in-patients that were
there that day.

“We’re very fortunate to have two
world-class equine centres, at the
Glasgow and Edinburgh vet schools,
close by,” continued Tim. “So we can
easily refer major surgical cases using
our own dedicated transport unit to take
advantage of the expertise and facilities
offered there.”

The Princess was accompanied by
her lady in waiting and the Lord
Lieutenant of Lanarkshire and his wife.
As can be seen from the photos, all the
staff thoroughly enjoyed the occasion
and it’s not everyday that a veterinary
practice receives “Royal Assent”.

So despite the current recession
there appears to be a great future ahead
at Avondale with a lot of confidence in
the practice’s ability to offer what clients
demand: the best of patient care in
modern surroundings and at a price that
is affordable. A model perhaps for
private veterinary practice in the
modern era.

  • www.avondalevetgroup.com.

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