A VETERINARY practice has defended its decision to outsource its out-of-hours emergency care after 60 years following a backlash by loyal customers.
Forest Lodge, which has practices in New Milton and Pennington, said overworked staff were suffering mentally and physically as a result of being on-call 24/7, forcing a review of the emergency care it has provided since the 1960s.
Pet owners registered with the practice requiring emergency care between 10pm and 8.30am will now have to travel to Southampton or Wimborne Minster in Dorset to the Vets Now dedicated out-of-hours service.
New Milton practice manager Debbie Nash told the A&T the firm currently has six vets on-call overnight.
“It is with deep regret that after many years of providing an out-of-hours service 24/7, Forest Lodge Veterinary Practice has had to review its emergency cover,” she said. “This is because workload pressure on the veterinary and nursing staff was exceeding their ability to maintain the high quality of continual daily care.
“This level of workload was compromising the ongoing mental and physical wellbeing of all our staff and could also have had a detrimental effect on patient care.
“The level of pressure and stress associated with being on call for extended periods of time in addition to a daily workload had become unsustainable. This has been compounded by a national shortage of qualified veterinary personnel.”
Upset customers aired their concerns on social media, with some saying they would now change practices after decades. The move prompted more than 90 comments on Facebook.
One said: “I’m very unhappily and reluctantly changing vet surgeries after 21 years registered with the same practice and having been delighted with their care.
“Having their own out of hours care is the one of the main reasons I’ve been with Forest Lodge.”
Another responded: “That’s a shame as Forest Lodge in New Milton were great with my dog when I needed the out-of-hours service and he had to be rushed in.”
However, other customers were more forgiving.
One wrote: “Years ago I was with Seadown Vets [in Hythe] and didn’t think twice about driving across the forest at 3am to Hythe in an emergency.
“In my view Forest Lodge do a hell of a job and all staff give 100%, have done for years. If it means I have to drive to Southampton so be it.”
Another said: “I have been with Forest lodge with all my dogs and I won’t be moving anywhere – they have always been kind, caring and helpful, so why change?”