The Yorkshire Vet, Julian Norton on the challenges of juggling two practices

Being involved and closely connected with two practices is really great.

The Yorkshire vet is dividing his time between Wetherby and Thirsk
The Yorkshire vet is dividing his time between Wetherby and Thirsk

Watching the growth of two nascent businesses is like nurturing two small children. Each day, new challenges appear and small hurdles are overcome.

Happy new clients register and, at Thirsk, old friends and previous patients appear through the waiting room door daily.

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I met one recently, a Labrador called Hailey. Now she is ten, and aging gracefully. I’d seen her as a puppy and (eventually) diagnosed an unusual case of a gall stone in young middle age.

That day, many years earlier, her owner, delighted when a concrete diagnosis had finally been made, hugged me firmly and gratefully in the dimmed lights of an X-ray room. I hadn’t forgotten her emotion on that day.

And we are sharing the joy of seeing new businesses develop. Younger partners, at both Wetherby and Thirsk practices, take on a big role, but with some support from more senior vets. Mark, Anne and I (the old vets) can pass on wisdom and knowledge, as well as continuing to work hard at the coalface.

Isabella and Helen can either judiciously ignore us or take confidence from experience based on previously negotiated problems. It’s working well. For my part, I’m the only one working in both places and it does sometimes scramble my tired brain.

“Hello, Sandbeck Veterinary Centre,” I enthusiastically bellowed down the phone at Thirsk yesterday. Nurses in the background laughed and waved their hands vigorously sideways to remind me I’d got it wrong. On a morning, I have to screw up my forehead at the junction in Sowerby, “Is it left or right today?” I ask myself.

But despite the minor confusions, I’m loving my dual veterinary life. The two new practices share equipment and borrow drugs. Orthopaedic drills, saws, pins and screws accompany me back and forth most days. And there is often a packet or more of medication to transfer from one surgery to another. I sometimes think, if only I could attach a road sweeper to my car I could sweep the A1 twice a day as well!

Last week, I swapped a much sought-after vaccine from one practice to the other. It was a drug in short supply across the country and an expectant Labrador was in need of a dose to safeguard her pregnancy. The vaccine would prevent a nasty disease caused by herpes virus and, for bitches requiring this cover, it is crucial.

Like many essential products in the post-Covid, post-Brexit Armageddon, the supply is erratic and woefully inadequate (has anything improved after Brexit?). There were a few spare doses in the fridge at Sandbeck. One of them could be spared for a very grateful client at Thirsk.

Also with luck, I’d remembered the tonometer (an expensive piece of kit for measuring the pressure inside an eye) along with the herpes vaccine. I brandished the vial above my head as soon as I arrived, announcing the arrival of the crucial vaccine.

Moments later, I overheard a conversation between a nurse and Isabella, which I found funny. It was both worrying and reassuring at the same time and uttered without any trace of comedy.

“Julian has the tonometer. And he’s brought Herpes from Wetherby.” If anyone in the waiting room had overheard the comment, I felt certain there would be no hugs for me today, no matter how grateful the owner!

The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesday evening at 8pm on Channel 5.