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.

  • Zig70

    I wouldn’t worry about lack of knowledge. My last couple of gp visits involved google by the doc. If in doubt refer it. Job done. I’m sure we could go one better and get a bot to do it. They can easily feint interest.

  • John

    On the 26/3/15 after persistent encouragement from my beloved I succumbed and visited our local GP surgery to see our doctor, I was faced by a spotty 16 year old ensconced behind a thick glass wall ( festooned by signs stating that abuse of staff received zero tolerance). After tinkling on her key-board for several minutes she informed me (without once taking her eyes off the screen or key-board) that I could see an esteemed professional individual on the 10/4/2015 at 10am. So I dutifully presented myself at the appointed hour ready for whatever joys lay before me. I watched the comings and goings for 40 minutes to no avail, so I said to myself a plague on all your professional houses and went home. So incensed was I that upon arriving home I wrote a letter to the practice manager suggesting three things

    1)They would do better to stop practising and start doing.
    2)The main difference between a Vet and a GP was that when you went looking for a Vet you will get him/her and that a 16 day wait followed by a no show would simply not be tolerated.
    3) Why do Vets not feel the need to display signs saying that abuse of staff will not be tolerated.

    Several weeks later the senior practice (that word again) doctor phoned and asked what I thought could be done to fix things. When I suggested that he shut down this business and try another line of work he was less than receptive.

  • Korhomme

    There is a paradox here; you, as a vet, are perfectly entitled to treat human animals, if necessary to operate on them. But I as a medic am barred by law from treating and operating on non-human animals. I might shout ‘discrimination’ but I doubt if I’ll get very far 😉

  • William Kinmont

    im not encouraging this activity all sorts if dangers lurk . GP training and ongoing CPD far outstrips ours, the debate im trying to spark is could a model of private GP / minor injuries clinics on a local basis provide the basis for maintaining rural gp services or is it a none starter for all sorts of reasons which you will be qualified to answer.

  • William Kinmont

    i google as well sometimes for specific answers i cant quite remember , sometimes its just to try an see where the clients perceptions have come from.

  • Korhomme

    My attempt at a bit of humour fell flat.

    But your suggestion of walk-in services in rural areas is interesting. There have been some trial services in large centres, some at major railway termini in GB. I’m not sure how successful they were — I’m not a GP. In my area there is a minor injury clinic, and an out-of-hours GP service, as well as several GP practices.

    The out-of-hours services began when the requirement for GPs to provide 24-hour cover for their patients was abandoned some years ago. Unsurprisingly, some GP were happy to work ‘regular’ hours. And rather than becoming a partner in a practice, many more junior medics prefer to be simply salaried, or even work as semi-permanent locums — they have none of the hassle of administration. The real problem with GPs is that there aren’t enough of them (or enough medical graduates altogether). This isn’t something that can be solved overnight or by importing those trained overseas. And many are concerned that the reduction in funding for the NHS as a whole, with barriers to training for nurses etc, are simply a way of making the population so disgruntled that when the call goes out to renew the service — and that this can only be done through privatisation — that people will then be in a frame of mind to accept it.

    How would your rural clinics be financed? Those I mentioned above were financed privately, and patients had to pay to access them.

  • William Kinmont

    my post was chopped in half by slugger asecond part is coming which effectively mirrors this lack of supply of GP /mixed practise vets. We still have the obligation to provide 24h cover yet 85/90 percent of graduates will not take this on. I think medicine has plans to ramp up supply we have none

  • William Kinmont

    The payment part , yes i wondered if private investment and people paying for the service would work. Getting an appointment locally is a nightmare If i dont offer my clients an appointment within a few hours they take their buisiness elsewhere.

  • Zig70

    Oh I’m just jealous I didn’t listen to my mother and chose engineering and get paid a quarter

  • Korhomme

    That of course is a problem with monopoly suppliers; if you can’t get an appointment with the GP with whom you are registered, the only option is to go to A&E. You can’t go to another GP — unless the second GP is private, and I’m not sure if there are any of those left in NI.

    Similarly it is the problem for business; if you can’t supply, the custom goes elsewhere.

    For the NHS the problems are those of a monopoly employer who isn’t very flexible, and insufficient workers — who today do have the options to go elsewhere.

  • William Kinmont

    would you have been prepared to pay a fee if that meant a quick efficient service? if so how much would be reasonable

  • John

    I along with everyone else (in employment) have been paying, in my case for 44 years. How many times do feel it is appropriate for a poor peasant to pay? Also when was the last year you earned £100,000 to £250,000 for a 5 day week?

  • William Kinmont

    That is all true but won’t change anything.

  • John

    Where is it written that a modern era GP has the unassailable right to get paid a six figure salary for working less hours than his/her predecessors? The “NHS” is supposed to be a public service, what bunch of idiots agreed to a payment system for GPs to get such a ridiculous amount of money for doing less work than their predecessors? If the system changed to this state of madness, why can it not be changed again to something sensible?

  • Tina Calder

    Do you think there might be a day ahead when people will train cross-species? In other words open clinics that openly advertise the ability to treat patients of any species? I personally wouldn’t be adverse to using the service…sitting beside a border collie waiting to get my bloods taken wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, especially if the service was likely to be more efficient than our current system!

  • Brian O’Neill

    The medic might forget themselves and give the human patient a friendly belly rub. The next thing you know they are on the front page of the Sunday world 😜

  • Tina Calder

    lol now there’s an interesting story !! ha ha

  • Reader

    Tina Calder: Do you think there might be a day ahead when people will train cross-species?
    Vets deal with a dozen species every day. Upskilling to a dozen and one shouldn’t be too big a deal, though the insurance costs could be a bit higher.

  • William Kinmont

    Vets are becoming more species specific and many will only tackle one type which works fine in the daytime but means out of hours rotas becoming Impossible. The facilities could easily double up each town will have one our more vet clinic with xrays scanners etc the personnel would be a different matter.

  • William Kinmont

    Hadn’t thought of that risk, old habits die hard.

  • Old Mortality

    William
    As a matter of interest, do you provide free treatment if you think the owner of the animal has not the means to pay? I mention that only because a significant proportion of the ‘poor’ and possibly also ‘vulnerable’ that I encounter seem to regard a dog as an essential and I often wonder how they can afford to pay for veterinary treatment. If they do, one asks why they could afford to make at least a small contribution towards their own medical treatment.

  • Old Mortality

    Wasn’t there a preposterous threat not so long ago that local GPs would go private if whatever their grievance was not assuaged? They would be lucky to make a decent five figure income if they tried that on and they know it of course. The answer is to lower the absurdly high academic barriers to entry for people willing to be GPs and churn them out in greater numbers. You don’t need 4A* to diagnose most ailments with all the information at the end of your fingertips.

  • John

    I recently was part of a conversation in which a hospital doctor was moving to a GP practice. He had two interviews resulting in job offers. One of these offers paid £20,000 more than the other, this particular practice had a “policy” of 10 minute appointments and one ailment per appointment.