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How are Camden’s vets operating during coronavirus lockdown?

Services are taking queries by phone and urge people to wait outside in emergency cases

25 March, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Animal staff are under strain amid the virus outbreak

VET surgeries are operating emergency appointments only during the coronavirus crisis with clients urged to queue up outside – two metres apart – as part of lockdown measures.

Staff are reporting challenges in getting disinfectant and gloves, similarly to NHS hospitals, and are worried about staff shortages as time goes on.

Shel Bunting, head vet at the Village Vet Highgate in Chetwynd Road, said: “A lot of our clients are older and at risk so the last thing they may want to do is come to a busy vet service.

“If people do have concerns you can speak to clinics over the phone or webcam and get advice to see if there is anything you can do at home for the problem.”

Services are only seeing sick and injured pets amid the coronavirus outbreak whilst all routine check-ups have been cancelled.

Similar measures are in place at Village Vet Primrose Hill, Village Vet Hampstead Hospital and Medivet Kentish Town.

Anne Richings, hospital director at Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital, said: “We have changed our prescription policy to one month’s worth of prescription at a time to prevent the stockpiling that we have seen in supermarkets.

“We are trying to reduce requirement for owners to be out and about and we do not want our clients traveling so where possible we are posting prescriptions.”

Dr Bunting said: “Obviously animals can’t give you signs over the phone but we have to take from what clients are saying.

“There are limitations but we can then organise someone to go to the clinic and be given medication if it is needed.”

It is also advised that vaccinations can run for 10 to 16 months over their due dates.

Dr Bunting, who is asthmatic, has been working from home and dealing with client queries via video calls. He thinks the current climate could expand the abilities of using telemedicine in the future.

“It is challenging and we are still getting used to it,” said Dr Bunting, “It is difficult because if someone has bought a brand-new puppy and they need vaccines then you are leaving a brand-new puppy with no vaccines for God knows how long.”

Clients have been asked to wait outside the service keeping a 2-meter distance from each other. The vet can then take pets inside and hand back over after the consultation.

The Village Vet is Highgate is open on a 24-hour basis and vets are called in for emergencies.

But there are worries that it will get tougher to keep services running as time goes on.

“It has been a bit touch and go,” said Dr Bunting, “We have had staff who have reported loss of taste and a chronic cough. We are seeing more and more cases and staff numbers are getting thinner and thinner.

“The good thing about the vet industry is we do it because we are passionate about what we do and our staff are rising to the challenge.”

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