A survey found that most veterinary OOH calls are not emergencies

Animal Health

A study conducted by VetNurse.co.uk and VetSurgeon.org surveyed four-hundred and seventy-five vet nurses and vets, asking them to recall their most recent out-of-hours call they had come across and if emergency care was required. The calls were condensed into three different groups, including issues that could wait for an in-hours practice, issues that needed emergency care, and those where there were no issues at all.

Of those interviewed, the study discovered that 64.8% of calls were about a condition that should have been dealt with during regular working hours. In addition, only 28.2% of calls were genuine emergencies, 6.9% were about something which obviously was not an emergency. Thus, 71.7% of calls were unnecessary.

“A survey found that most veterinary OOH calls are not emergencies. “

A spokesman for the RCVS said: “Later this year we will be conducting a full public consultation as part of our ‘under care’ and OOH guidance review and we would welcome the submission of the findings of this survey, along with any other comments and evidence, as part of that process.”

President of the VMG, Richard Casey, stated: “It’s important to understand why clients are requesting treatment OOH and prepare an action plan to deal with it. Frequent early evening calls, for instance, could suggest that some simply don’t understand the protocol. Good communication is key, so publicise your OOH service well, through client mailings, your website or newsletter. Make sure you set out clearly what level of service they should expect OOH. You could also signpost alternatives, 24/7 video consult service providers could support some anxious owners without cannibalising your client base. Automate triage tools and decision trees on your website can also be helpful. They are inexpensive for the practice and help clients assess the urgency of the situation before reaching for the phone. And, when you do get calls OOH, answer the phone ‘ABC Vets Emergency Service’ as this helps to draw parallels for clients between their GP surgery and A&E. It’s likely that this problem is with us to stay as we’re increasingly living in an ‘always-on world’. Managing it successfully is essential for your team’s work-life balance and also for client retention as, if their expectations are changing and you are not keeping up, they will eventually look elsewhere.”

Laura Playforth, director of professional standards at Vets Now, stated: “The vast majority of pets will experience some type of emergency situation over the course of their lifetime. Worried clients also exist and they might simply be looking for advice, support and reassurance on what to do with their pets. It’s vital that we as a veterinary profession are there for pets and their owners when they need us. Every time we take a call, it represents a worried owner. And the solution to this is to have processes to manage the client contact to ensure they receive the appropriate support and advice. This does not all have to be delivered directly by clinical teams. Our contact centre takes a huge number of calls, close to a million every year, from worried owners, and a significant number of these do not need to be seen in clinic. The purpose of our contact centre and our Video Vets Now service, which is the first point of contact for worried pet owners when they need us, is to help triage patients and help decide whether it is an urgent or emergency case and whether animals need to be seen at an OOH clinic.”

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