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5th Article

I am writing a second article about the PDSA which will be largely based upon the changes which the organisation underwent throughout my period of employment between 1980 and 1996.

In early 1980, I was looking for temporary employment while I looked for suitable premises to establish my own veterinary practice. I found employment with the Leeds Animal Treatment Centre (ATC) which had opened only three months previously in purpose built accommodation, after providing a veterinary service from an old, three storey building with limited floor space, for clients were often queuing up a flight 0 f stairs to see two veterinary surgeons who were sharing a single room with two examination tables, so there was no privacy.

As stated previously, each PDSA region originally consisted of several 'lock up' ATCs. performing consultations only. Surgical and radiological work was done at the main, regional ATC. which was provided with an operating theatre and hospitalisation. Before I joined, the PDSA had already embarked upon a programme of converting every ATC to providing basic medical, surgical, and diagnostic facilities. One reason for this was the need to for recruitment, because the PDSA had ceased training staff for the Supplementary Veterinary Register, and as the SVRs. retired, they were being replaced by fully qualified veterinary surgeons who wanted to work with full facilities being available. Another reason was public expectancy of increasingly high standards of veterinary care.

Therefore, I started work in a brand new building equipped with two consulting rooms, X-ray facilities, an office for the local fundraiser, and a refrigerated mortuary. I place emphasis on the word 'refrigerated' because none of the five private practices within which I had worked prior to joining the PDSA had refrigeration.

The only problem was that my two colleagues had no experience of surgical work because they had spent all their time consulting in the old building. The more senior of the two was a gentleman on the SVR He was in charge of the clinic but had neither interest in, knowledge of, nor experience of surgical work. The other was a younger MRCVS graduate who had spent nearly all of her career working in the old clinic, so she too lacked surgical experience. Assisting them were four ATC assistants, one of whom was a qualified veterinary nurse. Fortunately for me, the veterinary graduate and all four assistants worked with enthusiasm and were willing to learn, so I set about providing some surgical training. Indeed, the days I spent at Leeds ATC were so pleasant that I felt inclined to make a career in the PDSA. Furthermore, our daughter Helen was born shortly after I joined, so a stable, secure domestic background was more important than the uncertainties of independence.

Therefore, after about seventeen months in Leeds, I took over responsibility for Derby ATC. This was housed in two adjoining, Victorian terraced houses with an extension at the rear, so like Leeds, had undergone a similar modernisation. The whole premises housed two residential flats too. The only problem was that the operating theatre and the X-Ray machine were housed in the same room.


In 1984, both the General Secretary and the Midland Regional Veterinary Officer retired and were replaced by two new brooms who brought fresh ideas and changes in their wake. The PDSA was already having to respond to an increasing demand for its services because it was a time of high unemployment and the organisation's professional reputation was steadily improving. So the twelve years up to 1996, when I left, witnessed a lot of changes which included -

  • 1) The introduction of a formalised almoning system to ensure the PDSA
  • veterinary service went to those in genuine need.
  • 2) The establishment of a drugs budget for each ATC.
  • 3) A change from open surgeries to an appointment system.
  • 4) Replacing the in-house ATC assistant training scheme with the Veterinary Nurse Training Scheme regulated by and approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
  • 5) Improving public awareness of the PDSA. For example, staff were sent on media training courses and the attention of firms of lawyers was drawn to the PDSA with the purpose of attracting increased legacy income.
  • 6) Overhaul and re-organisation of the fund-raising division.
  • 7) The introduction of staff meetings and formalised reporting at various levels of management.
  • 8) The provision of regional centres where veterinary, property, and fund-raising functions could be administered under one roof.
  • 9) The encouragement of Continuing Professional Development through holding meetings at regional centres and subsidising courses.
  • 10) Formalised training in other managerial matters such as Health and Safety and assertiveness.
  • 11) Assisting those veterinary surgeons who wished to undertake further training to certificate level.
  • 12) Continued expansion of the PDSA ATC service. New ATCs. continued to be built and, for the first time, a service was provided in towns too small to. justify the construction of a new ATC. This service was known as Pet Aid and was provided through local private practices.
  • 13) The introduction of computerised drug ordering, records, and appointmentmaking at all centres was in full swing at the time I left.
  • One will readily appreciate that in a very short period of time, the PDSA had taken great strides to extend and improve the service it was providing. Improvements continue to be made. For example, both the Leeds and Derby ATCs. where I used to work have been replaced by even more comprehensively equipped and purpose built units to cope with both increasing demand and the need for improved equipment and facilities. It is now quite usual for ATCs. to be manned round the clock by separate teams of staff for services provided during office hours and for emergencies out of hours.


Relatively recently, I was invited to the formal opening ofthe brand new ATC in City Gate, near London Rd., Derby, and was impressed by the very high standard of facilities provided. I felt personal pride in being part of this organisation through a period of rapid developmental change. In my lifetime, if football parlance can be used, I have witnessed the rise of the PDSA from the Vauxhall Conference to achieve Premier League status in the veterinary world


7TH November 2005.


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