Every pet, and every owner, is unique – there’s no “one size fits all”. Ill and injured animals don’t come in a box marked “Orthopaedics” or “Internal Medicine”. They need logical and thorough understanding, gentle and holistic care, and timely, skilled intervention. Joined-up thinking is the key.
Recognised as a Specialist in Small Animal Surgery by The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the European Board of Veterinary Specialists, Ian has trained in small animal surgery to the highest possible level. He grew up in Gosport, studied in Bristol (where he first met Matthew as a class-mate), and graduated with distinction in 2000. He spent six years in mixed then small animal practice, before undergoing a five-year period of specialist training, working alongside some truly exceptional people. He gained key experience at the highest level, passed his RCVS Certificate in 2010, then became a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons, in 2011 – earning his Specialist accreditation by rigorous examination. He has since reaccredited in 2016.
Since qualifying as a specialist from the University of Cambridge, Ian has worked at the Royal Veterinary College as a house surgeon/clinical teacher, and in several private multi-disciplinary referral hospitals around the country.
Ian has worked hard to ensure he is as broadly skilled as possible, able to deal with anything that comes through the door in a competent and confident manner. This allows him to take an holistic approach, and apply “joined-up thinking” to cases where the clinical signs don’t quite fit one category – for example in trauma surgery, or with older patients. This “skilled generalism” is what makes vets so special – making connections, applying knowledge, reacting well to change as and when it happens.
Among other things, he has broad experience in:
Ian likes to challenge himself and others to think more about what they do. He has trained a number of small animal surgical specialists, and mentors vets seeking further surgical experience. He teaches surgery to vet students at The School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Surrey and to vets in practice who are studying for further qualifications in surgery through the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA).
Ian is passionate about helping vets to improve their own results. He set up a collaborative research group (the AVSTS Research Cooperative) to assist vets globally to pool their surgical results, to assess treatments and outcomes. He sits on the BSAVA Scientific Committee, which works to make sure science is at the heart of BSAVA activity and policy. He has published a number of scientific papers relating to clinical practice, which are now used by vets around the world. He will continue to publish as much as he can.
Owners are understandably anxious when trying to decide what to do for their ill or injured pet – particularly when trying to factor in the uncertainties of diagnosis and treatment, and the inevitable financial aspects. A large part of Ian’s time is spent helping owners understand what their pet is, and isn’t, experiencing, to make sure any decisions are based on facts and not on fears. This is the key part of Ian’s job, and he gives as much time to this as is needed.
Ian believes it is all too easy to recommend further tests, which are not cheap, and often these come back normal or inconclusive. He tries to do the least testing possible to achieve the right result, only testing if the results are likely to change the treatment options or plan.
Ian has seen first-hand the best treatment practice available across all aspects of small animal work. Unfortunately, he has also seen the worst – even at the top veterinary referral centres in the land. Mistakes can happen, and errors can lead to patient harm or even death. He believes the key to improving safety levels for future patients is for individual vets, nurses, trainees, and admin staff, to be encouraged, and supported, to recognise and investigate errors, in order to understand them; to discuss errors openly; and to work together to make positive changes, as a team. The larger the organisation, the harder it is for this to be done effectively – so, by being a small, specialised unit, with Ian’s strong drive at the centre, Island Referrals will hold patient safety as its core value.