BBC documentary series Panorama has revealed a shocking degree of bad practice within certain vet clinics in the UK.
An undercover reporter for the Panorama expose – entitled ‘It Shouldn’t Happen at a Vets’ worked as a trainee at one of the UK’s largest veterinary chains (Medivet), for a period of 9 months. What that reporter uncovered will shock pet owners who placed their trust in the veterinary professionals to care for and treat their animals honestly and with integrity.
Alex Lee, the Panorama undercover reporter, exposed evidence of highly dubious billing practices and unqualified staff performing medical procedures on pets.
“I came to the job with neither qualifications nor experience and had not been on any recognised training course.
This assignment came about after a former employee of Medivet approached us to talk about her concerns that untrained staff were being tasked with medical procedures.
After being hired, I did complete three weeks of in-house training at a Medivet branch.
From that I had assumed that my duties would be limited to cleaning, grooming and feeding the animals in my care.
In practice, I was quickly tasked with giving injections and a range of other roles that are widely considered to be medical procedures, as were my fellow “trainees”.
On one occasion, I was asked to insert a catheter – a rod inserted into a vein to allow medication or fluids to be quickly administered – into an Irish Setter named Yogi.
The dog was to undergo an operation on his throat to deal with breathing problems.
The colleague charged with teaching me how to do this was a fellow trainee nurse who had worked for Medivet just a few months longer than I had and who was not enrolled on a formal training course.
Secret filming of Yogi
Undercover footage of Yogi being restrained by the neck
The dog was scared and put up a struggle as the trainee tried to restrain him as well as tell me what I needed to do.
More hands came in to help, restraining Yogi with an arm around his neck while he was pinned against the wall. This, in a dog with breathing problems.
Pet owners have long been questioning the authenticity of some vet’s invoicing policies.
K9 Media Ltd has published an annual report entitled ‘The K9 Magazine Vet Satisfaction Survey’.
In it, we have – for the past decade – shown a growing concern amongst pet owners about the seemingly arbitrary pricing policies of certain vets in various areas of the UK.
The Panorama revelations will surely cause grave concerns to those pet owners who’s trust in the veterinary profession has started to wane.
This is a real shame.
If pet owners begin to second guess their vet’s recommendations on treatment or mistrust their motives or, dare I say, competence – if handing on highly skilled work to untrained staff, this would be a disaster.
Vets are a small business. Fact. They are, generally, a for profit enterprise. The large majority of the public has absolutely no objection to vets making a profit. Problems unfold when profits are put ahead of performance or medical necessity.
British vets are some of the best in the world. We should be very, very grateful to have such a depth of skilled professionals to care for our pets. But British pet owners deserve more transparency and clarity on issues such as care and pricing.
Panorama’s undercover reporter:
In one particularly upsetting incident during my time at Medivet, I witnessed a Shar-pei dog named Stanley being struck on the head just hours after he had undergone major surgery to amputate a leg.
I was asked, along with a kennel assistant, to remove Stanley’s catheter that had been placed for surgery. When the dog began to struggle and howl in distress, a nurse responded by hitting the dog hard over the head and wrestling him into an even tighter grip.
The nurse involved later apologised to us for his actions and Medivet said it was an isolated incident that it did not condone. The nurse has since been promoted to head nurse at a different Medivet branch.
One in four British people own a pet. As there is no such things as an NHS for pets, pet owners place their trust in the hands of private businesses. As there has been, at least over the past 10 years, an increasingly vociferous concern amongst pet owners toward the veterinary profession, this documentary is sure to fan the flames of suspicion.
A Panorama Special: It Shouldn’t Happen at a Vets’, broadcast on BBC One, Thursday, 22 July at 2100BST.
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