Profusion of internal windows in spectacular new hospital - Veterinary Practice
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now



Profusion of internal windows in spectacular new hospital

​Croft Veterinary Surgeons has long been one of the leading referral practices in the north of England, but finally the practice has premises to suit the high quality of its work.

Croft Veterinary Surgeons has long been one of the leading referral practices in the north of England, but finally the practice has premises to suit the high quality of its work.

The group’s central veterinary hospital was squeezed into a pair of terraced houses in Blyth, near Newcastle, with inadequate space, no off-street parking and a highly inconvenient staircase.

The partners, surgeon Malcolm Ness and dermatologist Judith Joyce, had done the best that was possible with the space, but it was time for something bigger and better. They have certainly achieved this aim with a spectacular new £3 million landmark hospital, opened in mid-November.

The building was constructed using ideas that Malcolm and Judith picked up from a range of practices in the UK and America as well as from other businesses.

On the A19 a mile from the A1, access is far easier than for the original hospital. The main entrance resembles that of a smart hotel, with a drive-through and drop-off zone beneath a portico. Inside, the resemblance is more that of a fashionable café, with a mix of comfortable seating and bar-stools with a television, coffee machine and fresh flowers.

A lift from the reception area serves the upper floors and a stairwell houses a two-storey stainless steel sculpture of a kelp forest complete with marine fish and a diving cormorant. This was created by Jason Sweeney, a blacksmith and sculptor, partner of one of the vets.

Once through into the in-patient areas, one feature is immediately obvious: windows. Lots and lots of windows. Every internal wall which is not necessary to support fittings is a window. Where privacy may be required there are blinds inside the double-glazing units, dust-free and hygienic.

In a large and complicated building, the profusion of internal windows makes it easy to supervise patients without disturbing them, makes it easier to find someone or to check if a room is in use, and makes the space appear larger.

Lots of large images

The diverse referral caseload means that there are a lot of large images to be handled, from the digital x-ray and CT units as well as “video” clips from ultrasound exams, arthroscopy, etc. To facilitate handling these Croft has chosen German software, easyVET, which is a practice management system on top of a PACS image handling system. Images can be viewed on any screen in the building, or indeed in any of the nine branch practices, rapidly and seamlessly.

In the kennels the bedding is colour-coded: dogs, cats, rabbits and isolation all being handled separately. Laundry from each area is collected in cloth bags on stainless stands: these too are colour-coded and are laundered alongside their contents.

Reike Hettrick (Croft’s rabbit vet) told me, “I am amazed at the difference the rabbit ward has made.” Not only is there no sight or sound of predator species, but there is even no residual smell on the bedding. Through the observation window one can watch rabbits behaving in a relaxed way seldom seen by vets.

A new facility for the practice is a CT scanner. Scans are faster, and therefore cheaper, than MRI and the machine is not as demanding to care for and work with, and only a few weeks after installation it is already getting more use than budgeted for. As well as the standard “slice” images, the software allows very impressive 3D images to be built up, which can then be rotated and manipulated on screen, more fun than a computer game!

The temperature control system is also impressive. The well-insulated building is a net producer of heat and heat-exchangers (a separate one for the theatres) ensure that little is wasted. A complex environmental system detects the temperature at many points both inside and out and builds up a picture of the diurnal patterns.

When given instructions, it works out the most efficient way of fulfilling them based on what it knows about the likely temperature patterns, and it learns from previous experience.

Out-of-hours service

The new building is referral-only, as well as providing an out-of-hours service to local practices, and the first opinion work is done at the original hospital plus another eight branches covering much of south-east Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Referrals are taken in orthopaedics and neurology (RCVS specialist Malcolm Ness), soft tissue surgery (Jonathan Bell), dermatology (Judith Joyce), ophthalmology (John Errington), internal medicine and assisted reproduction (Louise McLean), rabbits (Rieke Hettrick), physiotherapy (Helen Swales) and behaviour (Carrie Evans).

Clinical research is an important part of the practice ethos, helping to advance knowledge within the profession as well as simply practising to a very high standard. Other disciplines are planned in due course, but the partners feel that it is more important to find the right person than to have preconceived notions of which discipline they want.

Croft Veterinary Surgeons has been building quite a reputation in the north since opening in 1987, and with the new building the practice looks set to continue that success.

Have you heard about our
IVP Membership?

A wide range of veterinary CPD and resources by leading veterinary professionals.

Stress-free CPD tracking and certification, you’ll wonder how you coped without it.

Discover more