Valley Equine Hospital

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Valley Equine Hospital's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Valley Equine Hospital is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Senior Clinical Director
Equine athletes require gold
standard veterinary care
CVS Equine are working hard to modernise equine
veterinary practice to create more rewarding careers for
graduates entering the sector. With their head offices in
Diss, they have practices throughout the UK, the Republic of
Ireland and the Netherlands which provide quality veterinary
services for horses. Senior Clinical Director Hattie Lawrence
discusses the recruitment issues facing the veterinary sector and
explains how they are combating the problem.
James Herriot has a great deal to answer for. His tales of life as a country vet in
the Yorkshire Dales inspired generations of young people to see the veterinary
profession as an idyllic life worth striving for. Much of what he wrote remains true,
but our world has changed, and building a lifelong career as a veterinary surgeon
no longer holds the appeal it once did.
The veterinary profession is in the midst of a recruiting crisis, and finding and
retaining qualified, dedicated individuals in equine practice in particular is now the
greatest challenge we face. Why has this seismic shift occurred?
»We train more veterinary students now than ever before: we took on 813 graduates
in 2013 but have a high dropout rate after five to eight years post-qualification.
»Veterinary science remains one of the most highly subscribed degree courses and
attracts some of the most able candidates, but equine veterinary surgeons work
longer hours for a poorer salary than their peers in other professions and have
the highest injury risk of any civilian profession.
»The traditional career path of partnership and professional standing in the
community is no longer enough for a generation of academically elite individuals
who want lifelong learning and challenge.
»Senior Clinical Director:
»Director of Equine Operations:
Graham Dodds
»Established in 2010
»Located in Diss, Norfolk, with
practices throughout the UK,
the Republic of Ireland and the
»Services: Equine veterinary
»No. of employees: 349
»CVS are making a capital
investment in a new world-
class veterinary hospital,
veterinary clinical skills
teaching facility and vet school
hub at the new vet school at
the University of Keele
CVS Equine
Highlighting best practice
»Like doctors, veterinary surgeons
no longer enjoy the same level of
public respect and affection, and
young vets are having to develop
experience in a significantly more
litigious world.
»More women than men now qualify
as vets – 76 per cent – and the
profession has failed to recognise the
need for flexible working hours to
allow these vets to combine career
and family.
Facing the issues within the
This situation did not develop overnight,
but we have now recognised the urgent
need to provide a better future for our
vets so that we can continue to attract
the best and retain these talented
individuals throughout their working
lives to benefit from their expertise as
they progress. We have undertaken
a total rethink of how we expect our
people to spend their working lives.
Flexible working must become the
default position for all vets, allowing
us to provide great customer service
while giving our team a good work-life
balance. Providing quality 24/7 care
is challenging and requires a large
number of vets if it is to be sustainable,
so flexibility in the workforce with a
greater number of part-time workers
is beneficial. We are launching the first
dedicated equine emergency service so
that, ultimately, vets will not have to
provide out-of-hours cover in addition
to a normal working week.
From graduation onwards, there has
to be a visible and meaningful career
path through to retirement, with the
opportunities to change direction if
desired. We have leveraged our scale in
order to offer varied paths to our vets,
allowing them to undertake specialist
postgraduate training for both clinical
and management excellence. Not only
does this appeal to our vets but it also
means we can offer better services to
our clients and build the commercial
success of the business.
We know that veterinary graduates
have a wealth of transferable skills that
are applicable to more than medicine,
and we encourage and train vets,
including myself, to develop roles in
commercial management. All of the
directors within our senior management
team are vets with significant clinical
experience, giving them a real
understanding of the business of
caring for sick and injured horses.
Financial reward is relatively
unimportant to most vets, but the
more successful our business, the more
likely we are to be able to pay our vets
a salary that reflects their considerable
abilities and hard work and brings
them closer to the financial success of
their non-veterinary peers. Scale also
allows us to offer geographic flexibility
so that our vets are able to move to
a practice or role in a different area
of the UK, Ireland or overseas, if life
changes make that attractive.
The challenges of recruitment and
retention described here affect the
whole veterinary profession, requiring
It takes nine years to train a
specialist equine surgeon
We have now
recognised the
urgent need
to provide a
better future
for our vets
an industry-wide response to be truly
effective, and there is undoubtedly
a role for government and our
professional governing bodies in
facilitating the changes that must be
made. The joint goals of better-quality
veterinary care and a happier working
life for vets are not contradictory, and
should be recognised as desirable by all
those in positions of power.
Areas where additional
support is needed
Firstly, our professional bodies – the
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons,
British Veterinary Association and
British Equine Veterinary Association
– are vital in helping the profession
to educate the animal-owning public
on the real costs of providing quality
modern veterinary care. The NHS
is a magnificent institution, but it
has created a false idea that vets
charge outrageously for care. This
can result in unrealistic expectations
and resentment from clients, which is
demoralising for vets.
Secondly, almost every vet I have ever
worked with wants to do the best job
they can for the animals in their care,
but human error can occur, and we
need to work on quality improvement
in practice, as has been so successful in
the aviation industry and increasingly
in human medicine. This requires a “no
blame” culture. The RCVS has begun
this process but needs to continue its
growth. Furthermore, all vets must
become registered with the RCVS, and
quality of training should be rigorously
enforced. Overseas, however, we still
face issues, as the registration process
for vets is cumbersome, and the
statutory examination is only available
once per year.
Lastly, vets are not on the shortage
occupation list, making applications
for Tier 2 visas difficult and costly. We
currently employ a large number of
EU veterinary graduates, who make a
great contribution to our profession,
but regularly have to turn away
qualified individuals from outside the
EU because they cannot be recognised
by the RCVS in time to be of use in our
practices. With the impact of Brexit
still widely unknown, it is crucial that
a satisfactory solution is found to an
issue that could do profound damage
to our profession.
The joint goals
of better-quality
veterinary care
and a happier
working life for
vets are not
and should be
recognised as
desirable by all
Graham Dodds, Director of
Equine Operations
Anaesthetising a patient that weighs
half a tonne brings special challenges

This article was sponsored by Valley Equine Hospital. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister