Real life

There is affordable healthcare the other side of the Hindhead tunnel

On the Surrey Hampshire border is a vet who follows such an outdated ethical code I won’t give his identity away

13 February 2016

9:00 AM

13 February 2016

9:00 AM

After the £1,100 quote from the vet in London I drove down the A3 and out the other side of the Hindhead tunnel in search of affordable healthcare for the spaniel.

On the Surrey-Hampshire border, I found a well-recommended vet who had been in practice for 40 years and appeared to be still engaged in the treatment of animals for a small amount of money above the price of the labour and materials, claiming his reasonable costs back from the insurance rather than making the client pay up front.

He was past retirement age and clearly only practising for vocational reasons: a genuine fascination with veterinary medicine, a deep love of his job, and the satisfaction of curing much-loved pets.

The poor man will be censured by the veterinary professional bodies if they find out he is following such an outdated ethical code so I won’t give his identity away.

Rather than the eye-watering amount the London vet quoted me, he said the operation to remove the small lump would be £360 including lab fees. When I fumbled gratefully in my handbag to seal the deal, the cheery receptionist refused to take my debit card, saying there was no need to give them anything up front. I could settle the excess of £60 on my policy after the procedure and they would send off to the pet insurance for the rest.


The London vet had outlined a radical plan to cut away a small but significant surface area of my dog in a defensive op, just in case the lump turned out to be nasty. They would have to do chest X-rays first, they said, in case anything from the lump that might turn out to be nasty had spread. They also wanted to neuter her while she was under anaesthetic. My protestations that she was in season and therefore not suitable for spaying at that time seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Which was part of the reason (the estimate was the other part) I took her to get a second opinion.

The old vet reassured me that my instincts were right. He would not spay her until she came out of season. He would also not do any more radical a surgery than to remove just the pea-sized lump and see what it was.

I explained that the eager young London vet had warned me that I should err on the side of caution and go for a more radical op, because it was 50-50 the lump was something bad.

The old vet shook his head philosophically. ‘Yes, well,’ he said, a little wearily. ‘I’ve been in practice a lifetime and I’ve seen thousands of these lumps. I’ve been to dozens of seminars on them and heard all the latest theories, which come and go. At the last one I went to all the youngsters were getting excited by some new research until I asked where the sample dogs had come from. They had to admit they were all Japanese dogs. I pointed out that a Japanese dog might not be a good comparator for a European breed. Of course they hated me.’ He chuckled. ‘No, that didn’t go down at all well. Never mind, eh.’

I left Cydney with the old vet, hoping to goodness I was doing the right thing. She wiggled happily as the nurses took her out the back. She’s happy to be anywhere, bless her. She’s happy about everything. She’s delighted when it’s Monday and ecstatic when it’s Tuesday. She’s elated to find herself in a park and overjoyed to discover she’s at the vet. She doesn’t do anything but optimism. That’s why I love her so. I went home with my stomach in knots.

When I came back to collect her that evening, the receptionist presented me with a tin of recuperation dog food. It was the pricey sort so I fumbled in my bag again. ‘Don’t worry about that,’ she said. Then she went out the back to get the pooch, saying, ‘Come with me and see. She looks so sweet. She’s sleepy but keeps wagging her tail at us.’

Cydney was in a cage in a row of dog crates, all lined in thick sheepskin rugs. She was stretched out having a sleep but started wagging her tail with her eyes closed when she heard me.

The test results on the lump would be a week, they said. So I took the pup home and spent the time fretting, not sleeping, feeling sick, wishing it was me.

Six days later the receptionist rang to give me the news. The tests had come back clear. It was a benign lump. Then the phone rang again and the old vet himself came on the line to tell me how pleased he was. And I believed him.

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  • Great to get a vet like this one. I had a few experiences where my ‘You’re being conned’ antenna started wagging. At the last one the ‘vet’ declared the dog probably had pancreatitis and that they wouldn’t even look further than a quick glance over him without my signing a contract that I would pay up to £500. I signed… What else can you do – and left him with them for a couple of hours while they did a test. The result was negative, but I still paid the thick end of £350 for a ten minute examination and a blood test. I later took him elsewhere to a single handed vet practice and the guy looked him over and said, ‘I can sort this out easily. he has a grumbling bowl infection’. He gave him a steroid jab and a packet of anti-biotics and he was sorted and never looked back. The price? £50 including VAT.

    This vet and I talked about the experience at the other place and he confided that he had worked in the same place and several others before he set up on his own and that although they looked like old family vet practices and used their original family vet names they had been bought up and were owned by a big conglomerate which ran a great many such practices in cities up and down the country and that the professionals employed there were incentivised to recommend expensive investigations and treatments to maximise the turnover of the enterprise.

    Be careful where you take your dog. They may have other priorities in mind than jsut looking after the animal’s health and making a reasonable living.

    • SunnyD

      My mum told me once about an Irish fellow she knew who would only ever see a vet when he was unwell. His reasoning being that if they can tell what’s wrong with an animal who speaks no English…..

  • SunnyD

    A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird’s chest. After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, “I’m sorry, your duck has passed away.” The distressed woman wailed, “Are you sure?” “Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead,” replied the vet.. “How can you be so sure?” she protested. “I mean you haven’t done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something.” The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever As the duck’s owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head. The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room. The vet looked at the woman and said, “I’m sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck.” The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman..The duck’s owner, still in shock, took the bill. “£150!” she cried, “£150 just to tell me my duck is dead!” The vet shrugged, “I’m sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been £20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it’s now £150.”

    • gunnerbear

      Hellfire….I haven’t heard that one in ages! 🙂

  • Ron Todd

    I went to an old Mr Scott . I think he treated Noah’s animals on the arc. He was well part retirement age but kept going for the love of the job and must have set his prices in about 1950 and never changed them since.

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