Don’t wait to wait for a human doctor? No problem just ask your local friendly vet to treat you…

The small market town I call home now has three! , three places where you can have piercings and tattoos applied to your body. It is apparently a thriving industry. I wondered if could diversify into this myself as I applied a ring to the nose of a young bull, I’m pretty sure there is a set of tattoo pliers in a drawer somewhere in the surgery from the days before microchips were used to identify greyhounds.

It’s not as if humans presenting to the Vets for treatment is unheard of. Every few weeks a farmer will present with a minor injury that they haven’t the time to wait for in casualty and they want patched up before milking time. It is a regular hazard to return to the consulting room to find a client unfastening some part of their clothing to display a boil or blemish or bunion of their own which they want a professional opinion on. Putting a few stitches into the leathery skin of a sturdy old farmer is no problem. I draw the line at little old ladies who want to discuss their “women’s problem” or couples with family planning issues. There are bachelor farmers out there for whom our visits are as important socially as commercially and fulfil a small mental health role.

I do not flatter myself that my knowledge and skills even approaches that of the medical profession, we have always been trailing in their wake as far as advances in our treatment abilities. TVs super vet is presented as some sort of medical visionary when really he is applying techniques from human medicine that have been around for years before somebody figured out how to get the public to pay for them in pets. People come not because vets are better than doctors, they turn up because they don’t want to wait for 10 hours for a 10-minute procedure. There is a private clinic in NI which provides this service (properly) and for a fee, just not on a 24/7 basis or in a convenient local location. If GP and minor injury services were available in most towns as a private service would this work? Set up costs wouldn’t be much different to a vets in terms of equipment, would this alleviate pressures on the NHS or simply drain resources from it? What if somebody more seriously ill arrives with a time critical problem that has to be referred on? I have this debate with my GP friend joking that I run between patients and am expected to solve problems almost instantly otherwise my clients go elsewhere, his expect to wait weeks for blood results and months for surgery, mine will only accept hours.

William Kinmont is the pen name of a vet in Northern Ireland.