Village life: small community with bright future - Veterinary Practice
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Village life: small community with bright future

CAROLINE JOHNSON reports on the inaugural congress of a practice group

MID-September saw me travelling down to Ascot to speak at the Village Vet first annual congress at Ascot.

Brendan Robinson founded this group 20 years ago, which has grown from modest beginnings to a 15- centre group of practices now employing over 50 vets and 75 nurses.

He was obviously delighted to open this, their first congress, and talked with passion about the group’s mission to always demonstrate empathy and deliver the highest standards of care.

Ben Hardy of Judge Business School, Cambridge, then followed on with thoughts of what the next 20 years might bring both in veterinary medicine and in the wider society of which all vet practices are but a small part.

Both entertaining and thoughtprovoking, Ben demonstrated that we cannot predict everything about the future but left me feeling that the practices most likely to succeed will be those flexible enough to recognise and embrace change, and grasp the opportunities that come with it.

The rest of the two-day congress was divided into clinical and client care sessions so that all groups were catered for, whether vets, receptionists or nurses.

Attendees were then able to attend the sessions that were of most relevance to them in their daily jobs, and then duck out of others to have fun chatting to other group members or using the hotel leisure facilities. Certainly they seemed to enjoy themselves – especially the teambuilding exercises and the sparkling “awards ceremony” that was held on Saturday night. A team that laughs together, works well together!

The vets heard from top speakers in their fields: Andy Sparkes, Dr Angus Anderson, Graham Bilbrough, Lucy Davison, Lowri Davies and Susan Dawson brought food for thought on current problems in medicine and new ideas in surgery and veterinary healthcare.

And I have no doubt from the buzz around the congress that in such an intimate group the clinicians had a degree of access to the speakers that would perhaps not have been possible at a larger congress, and will have been able to take home ideas that they could apply the following week in dealing with cases and listening to clients.

My own contribution was amongst the client care sessions covering internal communication and practice presentation; Alison Lambert also presented on the subject of creating a great customer experience.

Inspiring and practical

Among these sessions, Ashley Gray, marketing director at Village Vet, gave an excellent talk on one-to-one client communication which was both inspiring and practical. And given the current debate about veterinary nurse training, a highlight for me was hearing Alex Chesterton enthusing about the opportunities for nurse training and development at Village Vet.

So what thoughts about the next 20 years did I take away with me as I drove home on the Sunday? The Village Vet people demonstrated that a large group of practices can still have fun and feel like a small team; and that an organised group can deliver CPD that is both intellectually challenging and directly relevant to practitioners, and do it close to home.

The future I guess is what you make of it and if you invest in your team you have as many opportunities as you have ever had. I enjoyed this congress very much and wish everyone at Village Vet well for the next 20 years …and beyond.

  • For more on Village Vet and to view pictures of the congress, log on to

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