Mind Matters Initiative and Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons announce Wellbeing Award winners

25 January 2017

Our Mind Matters Initiative and the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) have announced the winners of their joint inaugural Wellbeing Awards.

The winners are:

  • Large Practice (51 or more staff) - White Cross Vets, which employs 175 people across 16 sites around the country
  • Medium Practice (between 16 and 50 staff) - Valley Vets in Cardiff
  • Small Practice (up to 15 staff) - 387 Veterinary Centre in Walsall, West Midlands

The Mind Matters Initiative aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of those in the veterinary team including students, veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and practice managers.

The Awards are designed to celebrate those practices that truly support and motivate their staff, recognising that, while it is certainly critical that there is publicity around increased stress and mental health issues in veterinary practice, it is also important to highlight those practices where teams are happy and fulfilled.

Nick Stuart, SPVS Senior Vice-President, said: “We were so impressed with all the entries, not just our three winners. Initiatives, such as a hamper for ‘the loveliest person of the month’, a day off for people on their birthday, and in-house training on mental health and wellbeing help define the culture of a practice.”

Practices could enter one of three categories, determined by their number of full time equivalent staff. The judges then scored practices for: internal communication; opportunities for training and development; team building and networking; and initiatives to reduce stress and promote wellbeing and resilience.

Tim Harrison, Managing Director of White Cross Vets, said: “It’s not just about how bosses should behave morally, it makes pure business sense in a people-led profession where there is a shortage of vets and nurses. If you look after your team you will reduce turnover and that’s good for morale, good for your clients and ultimately, good for your profitability.”

White Cross Vets is the only veterinary practice in the country to achieve three stars in the list of the Sunday Times’ ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. Mr Harrison admits that several of their initiatives came from trawling through the Sunday Times supplement to see what other small businesses were doing for their staff. “The idea of a day off on your birthday and a birthday cake came from Timpsons, the shoe repair and key cutting chain,” he says. “Initiatives like that cost very little but can mean a lot to your team.”

Registered veterinary nurse Nichi Tanner, the Practice Manager of Valley Vets, said that attending a Mind Matters mental health awareness session in Cardiff had inspired them to organise in-house training from an award-winning mental health trainer, Trevor Bell, which received excellent feedback from their team. Their extensive year-round calendar of team social events also appealed to the judges.

For example, Nichi explained how the annual summer BBQ was great for morale: “The team love the fact that the ‘bosses’ personally prepare huge feasts of food and drink for them and their partners at the summer BBQ. Our Directors believe that, as well as funding events, the hard work of shopping, preparing, cooking, hosting and washing up makes their thank you that little bit more special.”

The owner of 387 Veterinary Centre, veterinary surgeon Hamish Duncan, and his wife and practice manager, Rachel Duncan, believe that good communication and mutual appreciation is key to wellbeing.

Rachel gave an example: “We introduced a ‘Gratitude Board’ to encourage team members to appreciate each other more, and for vets and nurses to share positive feedback from clients. It has had quite an impact and I hear people saying thank you to each other around the practice much more now.”

Lizzie Lockett, Director of the Mind Matters Initiative and one of the judges for the Awards, said that the panel was hugely impressed with the range and imagination across all the entries, not only the winners.

She said: “UK vet practices are showing real leadership when it comes to talking the wellbeing of their teams seriously. The work we are doing here to address mental health issues is being held up as a template by veterinary professions in other countries, and also by those in other professions. And the hard work that’s being put in on the ground by practices such as our award-winners is what makes a real difference.”

Stephanie Writer-Davies, SPVS President, will present the Awards in the Opening Ceremony of VPMA/SPVS Congress 2017 at Celtic Manor near Newport on Friday 27 January. The winners will then share their best ideas at a panel in the Mind Matters Initiative lecture stream, chaired by Dr Radha Modgil. a GP and co-host of Radio 1’s The Surgery.

The SPVS Wellbeing Awards judges were: Lizzie Lockett, RCVS Deputy CEO and Mind Matters Initiative Director; Richard Hillman MRCVS, who spoke about his own experiences of mental health problems at last year’s SPVS/VPMA Congress; Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at the mental health charity, Mind; Rosie Allister MRCVS, Director of Vetlife and Chair of Vetlife Helpline; Neil Smith MRCVS, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative; and Chair of judging, Nick Stuart MRCVS.

There will be an opportunity to take photographs of the winners immediately following the Opening Ceremony, which will finish at approximately 10:00. Photographs will also be available on request after the event.