VetPartners rising to challenge of handling impact of coronavirus crisis

VETPARTNERS is rising to the challenge of helping its UK-wide practices continue to care for patients during the coronavirus outbreak.

The York-based group, which has more than 130 small animal, equine and production animal practices, with 5,500 team members working in 500 sites, has contingency plans to help practices continue to provide a service while the Covid-19 virus continues to spread across the UK.

VetPartners is confident it has measures in place to help mitigate supply chain impacts, potential branch closures in high-risk areas and a shortage of team members if they become ill, have to self-isolate or socially distance themselves.

The global health crisis has already impacted VetPartners’ practices in Italy, where the entire country is on lockdown, and prompted the biggest strategic planning operation since the veterinary group was established in 2015.

CEO Jo Malone, Chief Operating Officer Mark Stanworth and Director of Regulatory and Professional Affairs Tim Shearman have coordinated plans to ensure practice teams are protected so they are able to continue treating patients while maintaining animal welfare.

Mrs Malone, pictured, said: “From the outset we have been assessing and managing the potential impact of the Covid-19 virus and reacting to the steps put in place by the government and relevant authorities to deal with it.

“We have ensured regular communication with our practices, but one of the major challenges is that the situation is evolving and changes every day. However, contingency plans are in place, and we are well prepared for any impact.

“Within a short space of time we’ve had to introduce policies on the self-isolation of team members, establish procedures requiring colleagues to report if they feel unwell or have been exposed to the virus, provide extra disinfectant and sanitisers while foreseeing any procurement challenges, implement home-working arrangements where possible, as well as plan resourcing strategies, such as the re-allocation of employees or the temporary closure of branches.

“Our regional teams have been working on contingency plans in the event of site closures in heavily impacted areas and we have also been liaising with colleagues in other larger groups to ensure we do the right thing for the profession and animal welfare.”

Mr Shearman, who along with Mrs Malone is a vet on the VetPartners’ senior management team, said making contingency plans for an unpredictable future had made the last three weeks all the more challenging.

However, he added the experiences of colleagues at their five practices in northern Italy had helped with strategic planning.

Mr Shearman said: “Our senior management team has been preparing for the impact of the Covid-19 virus for several weeks now as we saw the situation developing in northern Italy, where we have practices. We have certainly learned some things from our colleagues there and that has helped us to prepare for what the likely impact will be.

“We’ve been able to understand and prepare for the kind of restrictions that were implemented in Italy, such as one practice in a locked down town having to ensure there was no congregation in the waiting room with only one client being brought in at a time.

“There are many difficult decisions to be made by our practices on the closure of local sites, advising team members to stay at home and protecting at-risk groups, and we are here to support them through it all.”

Mrs Malone added: “We have great people in our practices and we are seeing people already pulling together when faced with challenges and uncertainties. It’s what makes VetPartners very special. We understand what our clients’ pets mean to them and our teams are fully committed to doing all they can to support them.”

For media enquiries, please contact Amanda Little, VetPartners Senior PR and Communications Manager, on 07970 198 492 or email amanda.little@vetpartners.co.uk

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