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Busy reception area at Rackheath Vets

Busy reception area at Rackheath Vets

New Norfolk Vets Established To Improve Support For Neurodiversity

3 weeks ago

13th March, 2023 14h16

Lloyds Banking Group

A new veterinary practice in Norfolk has completed a £2 million transformation that has made it one of the most inclusive businesses in the region.

Rackheath Vets has used a £1 million funding package from Lloyds Bank to overhaul a former car showroom and bridalwear shop to establish a practice specially designed to support those who are neurodiverse.

Pet ownership is high amongst people who are neurodiverse because of the benefits to wellbeing and the support to everyday activities that they can provide. The opening of the practice also comes ahead of Neurodiversity Celebration Week on 13th-19th March, which aims to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences.

Founded by Chris Tomlinson, an experienced veterinary surgeon in the area who came out of retirement to launch Rackheath Vets, the new small animal practice has introduced inclusive features such as muted colours throughout to reduce the sensory impact and enhanced space for wheelchair users. The redesign has also prioritised a bright and welcoming arrival, with space for plenty of staff to greet visitors, so that they’re as comfortable as possible.

Chris has employed 26 staff – including five veterinary surgeons and eight veterinary nurses – and has committed to boosting employment opportunities for those with certain neurodiverse conditions, which can impact interviews and employment opportunities.

Rackheath Vets is also collaborating with local schools to offer work experience placements, while a partnership with local agricultural sixth form Easton College allows students studying nursing and animal health to get hands-on experience.

To boost wellbeing, staff will work four-day weeks on a rota so that they have extra time to spend with loved ones, enjoy hobbies and live an active lifestyle. As part of the transformation, a shower and locker room has been introduced, with staff encouraged to cycle to work where possible.

The practice, which currently has four consultation rooms, an operating theatre, a laboratory for testing samples and kennels, is aiming to have up to 5,000 pets signed up to the practice in its first year of operation. An adjoining building also offers space for the practice to grow into once fully up-and-running.

Chris Tomlinson, veterinary surgeon and founder of Rackheath Vets, said: “Creating a world that’s more inclusive and friendly is a responsibility everyone shoulders. Having lived my life around neurodiverse people, I’ve seen the importance that animals play in their lives, and I also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to develop a career in our sector. Plus, I found out I wasn’t quite ready to hang up my stethoscope just yet.

“Animals have long been crucial in comforting and helping people – guide and rescue dogs, or emotional support pets are perfect examples. Therefore, it’s especially important that veterinary practices set the benchmark for how to offer more inclusive services for people of all backgrounds. I’m proud that we’re able to provide this to the people of Norfolk - it’s going to be an exciting first year ahead.”

Mike Philpot, relationship director at Lloyds Bank, said: “Practices must constantly be looking for ways to make their services more accessible for the people using them. Chris is an asset to Norfolk and a shining example for the region’s businesses to follow.

“All businesses are embedded into the fabric of a community and it’s important that they reflect and best serve the people that live there. Groups such as Neurodiversity Celebration Week are helping to build awareness and raise the profile of the skills and advantages of being neurodivergent, but it’s always encouraging to see businesses put that into action. All credit to Chris and his team for creating a truly inclusive workplace.”

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