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By Cruelty Free International

First BVA Wellbeing Awards winners unveiled

British Veterinary Association

7 min read Partner content

Awards highlight workplaces which ‘go above and beyond’ to support their teams

Blue Cross Merton Hospital, Inglis Vets in Dunfermline and the Food Standards Agency have been unveiled as the first winners of the inaugural British Veterinary Association (BVA) Wellbeing Awards, which recognise outstanding veterinary workplaces. 

The awards, sponsored by MSD Animal Health UK, celebrate the veterinary workplaces which have embraced the ethos of BVA’s Good Veterinary Workplaces campaign and Voluntary Code, recognising and platforming those which go above and beyond to support and enhance the wellbeing of their teams.

The awards were presented at a prestigious ceremony at BVA’s annual Gala Dinner, which was held yesterday evening (16 November 2023) at the London Marriot Hotel in Canary Wharf as part of this year’s London Vet Show.

On behalf of the awards judging panel, BVA President Anna Judson said: “Ensuring we have healthy, happy workplaces where teams can thrive is fundamental to building a sustainable veterinary profession. BVA’s Wellbeing Awards provide a platform upon which to celebrate and share the fantastic workplaces that are prioritising staff, ensuring they feel valued and supported. Our first winners have set the bar high, and I congratulate them all for their pioneering approaches that will be an inspiration to the profession.”

As the Good Veterinary Workplaces campaign focuses on all types of veterinary workplaces, the awards have three categories: one for small/medium practices, one for large practices and one for non-clinical workplaces. This ensures all practices are able to demonstrate their dedication to wellbeing alongside similar sized and resourced workplaces, and also gives non-clinical teams the chance to share their efforts as well.

This year’s BVA Wellbeing Award winners are:

Small/Medium Practice (Up to 25 employees) winner:

Blue Cross Merton Hospital – South West London

Blue Cross Merton Hospital impressed the judges with their positive attitude and how they appear to be genuinely accommodating for all team members, with true appreciation of clinical and non-clinical staff. The team’s wellbeing both in and outside work is considered and members are empowered to suggest changes they feel would be beneficial for themselves and colleagues. The team takes the time to celebrate achievements, to assess their days, hosting daily huddles and looking at the stresses of a tough day so they can prepare and mitigate for issues in the future, as well as checking in on individuals throughout the day. Blue Cross Merton Hospital, which has several mental health first aiders, also encourages regular social events, such as paddle boarding and an annual camping trip, plant swaps and even a toad rescue event during toad migration season. The judges added that “warmth shone through” the team’s application.

Emmeline Macedo, nurse manager at Merton Blue Cross, said: “Merton Blue Cross are very proud to win this award - it truly has been a team effort. Looking after a team’s wellbeing doesn’t mean just being supportive during times of stress and creating a good work environment, but also challenging people to develop and empower themselves and ensuring that all team members have input into decision-making in the hospital.  We spend a lot of our time at work, so it makes sense to create a happy, positive place to work in.  Winning this award is a culmination of effort from the whole team, showing just how well we work together to support our patients, our clients and each other.”

Large Practice (Over 25 employees) winner

Inglis Vets – Dunfermline

The award judges found Inglis Vets feel “like a genuine place that prioritises wellbeing”, praising how the workplace “seems to care about healthy relationships in all aspects of life”. There is a separate team to handle complaints, and the practice has developed a wellbeing committee with volunteers from all departments who do everything ensuring the tearoom is well stocked to organising social events and helping to implement changes which can positively impact staff. Staff are also given a summary of positive feedback from clients and have “huddles” every morning to share plans for the day and highlight any potential issues. The workplace also ensures that lunchbreaks are protected as much as possible and assists if there is a need for flexible working or leave such as compassionate leave or pet bereavement support. Socialising is encouraged, with many staff meeting regularly outside work, and the practice even runs a Highland Games, as well as other team bonding activities.

Briony Dall, client care advisor and wellbeing champion at Inglis Vets, said: “We are delighted that our team at Inglis has been recognised by this wellbeing award.  By their nature, veterinary workplaces are not stress free, but we try to manage the parts of it that we do have some control over to reduce the overall impact. Over the past few years there has been a concerted effort to improve our working environment and it is fantastic to have that effort acknowledged by this BVA initiative.”

Non-Clinical Workplace

The Food Standards Agency (FSA)

The award judges praised how the FSA took the time and effort to better understand individual experiences, which “is very empowering” and the team’s “reverse mentoring scheme”, which sees non-native English speakers serve as mentors for native English-speaking staff. This scheme was developed to encourage communication and helped the workplace be more inclusive. The organisation has very generous volunteering leave to encourage staff to help others, and a culture of valuing staff opinions and views, encouraging honest input from all on the team. The workplace is also proactive is looking at barriers within the workplace as well as external factors which could cause issues, rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Jane Clark, Director of Vet Services at the FSA, said: “At the FSA, we recognise all the challenges our vet teams face, both at work and at home, and seek to support them to bring their whole selves to work.  That’s why I am so delighted that the FSA has been recognised for the culture we have built on wellbeing and enabling a flexible and inclusive workplace. Our vets are vital in protecting AH&W and food safety on behalf of UK citizens and we are so proud of the work they deliver, practicing One Health each and every day.”

John Helps, Senior Technical Manager at sponsor MSD Animal Health, added: “It is a huge privilege to support the BVA’s Wellbeing Awards. MSD Animal Health recognises how focusing on improving the working environment within veterinary practices also ultimately drives the best outcomes for animals and their owners. The diversity of approaches and innovation that the short-listed practices demonstrate to support well-being is particularly impressive and it’s clear we are seeing evidence of some really positive supportive working environments. The experience of judging the awards has left me with a feeling of optimism about the future of veterinary workplaces and what could be achieved by applying a proactive approach to staff wellbeing.”

The judges for the awards were:

  • BVA Junior Vice President Anna Judson
  • Dan Makin, Vet and Practice Owner and former BVLGBT+ President
  • Ami Sawran, Clinical Director of Westpoint Farm Vets and a member of SPVS board
  • Julie Gibson, Vet and BVA Policy Committee Member
  • Calum McIntyre, Past President of the Association of Veterinary Students
  • Vetlife Board Member Paul Freeman 
  • John Helps, Senior Technical Manager Companion Animals - MSD Animal Health

The awards look for workplaces that have a positive culture where mental and physical wellbeing is prioritised and workplace stress is proactively managed; good communication between the team ensuring all staff members are heard and valued; clear processes in place for making suggestions and enabling change; and flexible working being supported, with regular breaks encouraged.

The BVA Wellbeing Awards are an evolution of the Vet Wellbeing Awards, which were originally founded by SPVS and run in partnership with RCVS Mind Matters Initiative.

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