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  • The VPMA Board, VPMA
  • The VPMA Board, VPMA
Latest News //
  • Petplan Veterinary Awards Practice Manager of the Year Winner 2017 - Anne Corson

    Petplan Practice Manager of the Year Winner, Anne Corson from Pennard Vets in Tonbridge, Kent demonstrates the type of work she carries out in a normal working day. Watch the Video.


    Renay Rickard, VPMA president, armed new managers with a suite of tools to help conduct appraisals with a range of practice team members during her ‘New to Management’ webinar

    Conducting appraisals causes many new managers to pale at the thought, but VPMA’s president, Renay Rickard, put minds at rest with a straightforward guide to the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ of staff appraisals, during VPMA’s second New to Management webinar held on March 15.

    The message was clear from the beginning: make appraisals in your practice a positive experience and something that members of the team actually look forward to instead of dread!

    “In the early days, when I first started to do appraisals in my practice, it was viewed as an annual telling off! We want it to be a positive experience all round. We now have people coming to me and asking when their next appraisal is – that’s when you know you’re doing something right,” said Renay.

    It’s important to make your team member feel at ease and special – this is time invested in them in a busy practice where time is pressured and not everyone always gets listened to, continued Renay. “It’s important to commit to a time you’ve set – I’ll allow a time to be cancelled once but the appraisal has to go ahead the next time. It’s a big deal for the person being appraised so make sure they feel important and that your meeting is held somewhere private and uninterrupted,” she added.

    Being clear about the purpose of the appraisal and giving the reasons why you’re holding one is important for clarity and consistency among staff. Key to this, said Renay, was having a structure and procedure in place, including making your key performance criteria available to everyone – publishing them in the staff handbook in Renay’s practice.  


    Polls carried out during the webinar showed an interesting split between delegates in their concerns over conducting appraisals. When asked “What is your biggest challenge regarding appraisals?” the responses were as follows:

    33%  “Unsure how to keep emotion out of it”

    27%  “Worried about confrontation issues”

    22%  “Not having a formal process in place”

    16%  “Don’t have enough objective info”

    2%   “The team members are senior to me or at practice longer”

    When asked whether their practice had an appraisal process in place, the results showed almost one-third did not.

    62% Had a process in place

    31% Did not have a process in place

    8 % Were not sure

    The message from Renay for practices without an established appraisals process was to not be intimidated by the prospect and start one yourself. She said: “If your practice doesn’t have a review process, do start one in an informal way and do it yourself if you’re heading up a small team. Ensure that the person who does take on this task has the authority to make changes or raise issues with the bosses – there’s nothing more frustrating for staff than being promised a chat and airing their views only for it not to go any further.”

    Renay shared her protocol for appraisals, which will be distributed on the accompanying slides to webinar delegates. You may still sign up now to this and other webinars in the series; visit

    The next webinar in the series is entitled
    Difficult Team Members and Disciplinary Processes and will be delivered by Simone Taylor from Citation on April 12 at 8pm. This webinar will look at how to handle difficult team scenarios and what might be expected of you in managing a disciplinary process.

    To sign up or for more information email
    secretariat@vpma.co.uk or visit http://events-by-vpma.co.uk/

  • RCVS Strategic Plan 2017/19

    Leadership, innovation and culture change focus for three-year strategic plan

    The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has published its Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2019, with a focus on developing leadership within the veterinary professions, encouraging innovation, and further extending a learning culture as a counter to the ‘blame’ culture that exists in some parts of the profession.

    The Strategic Plan was developed throughout the course of 2016 with input from a number of stakeholders including RCVS Council and Veterinary Nurses Council, key committees and College staff. Most importantly, the evidence for change came from the wide and deep consultations that took place within Vet Futures, the joint RCVS and British Veterinary Association project that aims to help the veterinary profession prepare for and shape its future.

    This process led to the development of five key ambitions for the next three years:

    • Learning culture: to establish the extent to which a ‘blame’ culture exists in the veterinary professions, the role that the RCVS may play in it, the impact it may have on the welfare of vets, veterinary nurses, owners and their animals, and how we can move towards a culture that has a greater focus on learning and personal development.

    • Leadership and innovation: to become a Royal College with leadership and innovation at its heart, and support this creatively and with determination.

    • Continuing to be a First-rate Regulator: continuing to build on the foundations that have already been laid, we will work to ensure that the legislation and regulations that support us are not only fit for purpose today, but enable us to make the UK veterinary professions, and those allied professionals who work alongside them, the best that they can be into the future.

    • Global reach: in part a response to Brexit and the need to be more externally-facing but with an emphasis to improve animal health and welfare on an international basis by raising veterinary standards overseas, contributing to the One Health agenda and ensuring that our regulation keeps pace in a global market.

    • Our service agenda: to continue to build on our service agenda to ensure that people not only find interactions with us to be efficient and fair, but seek out and take up opportunities to engage further.

    Nick Stace, RCVS CEO, said: “The hallmark of our 2014 to 2016 Strategic Plan was getting the basics right by clarifying our identity, improving our core functions, setting out our service agenda and strengthening our foundations. The plan gave us a firm foundation to build upon and improved levels of confidence in the College from stakeholders which has allowed us to be more ambitious and outward-looking with this new plan.

    “Within the new plan there are challenging ambitions and stretching objectives that address some of the big issues affecting the veterinary team, whether that’s playing a more global role post-Brexit, the importance of embracing new technology, or the pressing need to consider culture change within the profession to ensure it continues to grow and learn.

    “I would ask each member of the profession to take a look at the Strategic Plan and I am very happy to receive comments and feedback on the plan by email at nick@rcvs.org.uk.”

    To download the Strategic Plan please visit www.rcvs.org.uk/publications

  • VPMA / SPVS Congress 2017

    Join us at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport from the 26th to 28th January 2017.

    From behaviour economics to the ultimate front of house experience; resilience to understanding mindsets; practical H&S to managing social media, with speakers from home and abroad; within and outside the profession - you don't want to miss this event.

    Incorporating the New to Management Stream: whether you're a head nurse, a lead vet in a clinical role, an administrator or client care team leader, you probably have some management elements to your job; or are you moving into management but finding it a bit daunting?  This stream is pitched at introductory level.

    For full details about Congress, click here.


The VPMA Board

The Association exists to support its members and the wider profession in driving excellence in veterinary practice management.  The VPMA Board is made up of up to 15 elected members who help to steer the association and help it achieve its key aims.  Board members serve a minimum term of 3 years.  The Board of Directors is chaired by the Association’s President who usually serves a term of 1 year.

VPMA Board of Directors 2017/2018

renay rickard 2016

Renay Rickard, President

I am the practice manager of the recently merged Kernow Veterinary Group which is a multi-centred mixed practice in mid Cornwall employing a team of approximately 90 people, and is now the largest independent practice in Cornwall.  I started at the practice in 1985 as a YTS trainee, qualifying as a Veterinary Nurse in 1989.  I progressed through the ranks to Head Nurse, before becoming Practice Manager in 2004.  I have been a VPMA member since 1996 and gained my CVPM in 2010.  I have also worked in the past for Duchy College in Cornwall as part of the Veterinary Nursing team as a course moderator and clinical coach trainer.

A passion for veterinary nursing has now been replaced with an equal passion for all aspects of practice management and the daily challenges it provides.  I particularly enjoy the training and development of the veterinary team – particularly watching the career progression of veterinary nurses.

I am also the VPMA Regional Co-Ordinator and Cornwall Regional Organiser.In my personal life I like to spend as much time as possible enjoying the fantastic place that is Cornwall, particularly the beaches and cliff paths, with the occasional horse ride out onto the moors.  I also enjoy attending music festivals with my two daughters, although now they are both teenagers they are finding this less “cool”!

You can listen to a short interview with Renay by Clicking Here.

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 julie beacham 2016

Julie Beacham, Junior Vice President and Company Secretary

I started working in veterinary practice in 1995 as a receptionist following a career in the medical world as a nurse and as a clinical scientist in the NHS. I quickly developed a passion for veterinary work, and practice management in particular, becoming the first overall Practice Manager of a large mixed practice, Wendover Heights Veterinary Centre, Buckinghamshire in 2009.

I joined the VPMA in 2006 and was awarded the CVPM in 2010. I am a Board Member, a member of the Certification and Training Committee and the Regional Organiser for Buckinghamshire.

Animals have always been my major interest in life, with mastiffs and oriental cats at home as a welcome distraction from my work commitments.

You can listen to a short interview with Julie by Clicking Here

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cath grimsey 2016

Cath Grimsey, Finance Director

I hail from the Welsh borderland and have a background in equine veterinary practice, where several years working my way up from a junior position to that of practice manager, gaining my masters degree in Business Administration along the way!

As a military wife l have spent time in many parts of this green and pleasant land but have a particular fondness for the fens and am delighted to be based there once again. I am lucky enough to have my own lovely horse Rosie, and when not at work or riding may be found out ‘welly walking’ in the local countryside with my 8 year old daughter and our brilliant dogs Rum and Bart!

You can listen to a short interview with Cath by Clicking Here

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h sanderson 2

Helen Sanderson, Senior Vice President

I have been working in the veterinary industry for over 20 years, starting out as an Equine Nurse in a large referral hospital. Following a move to Lambourn I continued to work in equine practice but made a move into the accounts and office area, which started my interest in practice management. Following spells working as a practice manager and a business management consultant, I am now enjoying my new role as Strategic Business Development Manager for Vets4Pets; the role allows me to bring all my skills and knowledge I have accumulated over the years to help drive practices forward in this ever competitive market.

I live in the heart of the horse racing community in Lambourn and am far happier to be wearing wellies than a suit!! Both my sons have the same love of horses and the outdoor life as I do, one being a professional jockey and the other working on a cattle station in SW Australia. When I am not working or showing my ex-racehorse, I like nothing more than walking on the downs with my Labrador, Slug, and, in the winter, doing a bit of shooting and picking up at our local shoots.

You can listen to a short interview with Helen by Clicking Here

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ian wolstenholme 2

Ian Wolstenholme, VPMA Director

I have been a small animal veterinary practice manager in the Greater Manchester area since 2005 and before that enjoyed a long career in independent electrical retail management. As someone coming into the industry from a non-clinical background, the VPMA was a very useful source of help and information – and still continues to be – and this prompted me to apply to join the VPMA Board of Directors in 2012 with some responsibility to drive forward the monthly newsletter and the new combined magazine with SPVS, 'Practice Life'.

Outside of work, I continue to have several musical interests. I am a semi-professional organist and keyboard player and, as time allows, continue to be a freelance broadcaster and journalist, having produced award-winning music programmes for BBC Radio Lancashire and community radio during the past thirty years. I am married to Kay and we have three grown-up sons and a very lively border terrier called Toro.

You can listen to a short interview with Ian by Clicking Here

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ruth mackay 2016

Ruth Mackay, VPMA Director

I am a veterinary surgeon, who qualified in 1991 and spent the first three years of my career in mixed practice in the North of Scotland.  In 1994 I ventured across the border to Lancashire and started work in my current practice initially as an assistant and then in 1996 I became a partner. In 2004 my business partner retired and since then I have been the sole owner of the practice. During this time it has grown from 6 employees to a team of 16 and we have also moved into purpose built premises.

I am passionate about veterinary practice management and although I now have a full time practice manager I still am very actively involved in growing and evolving our practice.  I am just about to take on a new partner in the business and so feel this gives me more time to contribute to the VPMA on the Board of Directors.  I have also taken on the role of VPMA representative on BVA Council and am looking forward to ensuring VPMA’s views are listened to in that forum.

In my spare time I love walking my dog, Rubix and also socialising!

You can listen to a short interview with Ruth by Clicking Here

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 g hills

Georgina Hills, VPMA Director

I started as a student Veterinary Nurse in 1995, back in the days of the 'green book' and progressed to Nurse and then Head Nurse in various practices in the South West. I had one break from veterinary life to run a mountain biking holiday company in Spain for a year and then returned to my greens. Looking for the next challenge I moved from Head Nurse to Practice Manger at a Hospital and Referral Centre where my boss encouraged me to study and then take the 'Certificate in Veterinary Practice Management,which I was proud to achieve in 2013. I am now a member of the Certificate and Training Committee sitting on the other side of the table and promoting the CVPM!

In 2016 I joined Independent Vetcare as a Business Support Manager and now look after 12 practices in North Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire working with the Practice Mangers and Clinical Directors to develop their practices and teams.

In my spare time I play in a brass band and visit Snowdonia to mountain bike or walk the dogs.

You can listen to a short interview with Georgina by Clicking Here

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 stuart saunders 2016

Stuart Saunders, VPMA Director

I have been a practice manager for veterinary practices since 2007 and currently look after a three branch mixed practice in Devon. Prior to that I had a long career as a broker in the City of London and Hong Kong trading derivatives and convertible bonds from in both European and Far East markets. I am hugely motivated by the veterinary industry but not from a clinical point of view, my passion is my staff and the service that they can deliver to our clients.

Outside work (as if there is any life outside work!) is filled with my wife and four children, our pets, my charity work and my other job which is working and helping manage 275 volunteers at Glastonbury Festival every year. If time allows I fly fish and make wickedly strong cocktails at parties for friends.

You can listen to a short interview with Stuart by Clicking Here

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 gillian page Gillian Page, VPMA Director

I joined the VPMA Board of Directors in June 2016. I am the co-owner and Business Manager of Ayrton Veterinary Hospital near Edinburgh.  The business opened from a cold start in 1999 and progressed to a purpose built Veterinary Hospital in 2006.  I was part of the design team and co-project managed the year long build.

An initial training as a Veterinary Nurse at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies In Edinburgh, was followed by a Head VN position in Pinner. Subsequent roles included; Lecturer in Nursing and Key Account Manager (wholesale, Vet Schools & PDSA).

As Centre Manager for The College of Animal Welfare in 2000, I was involved as Deputy Programme Leader in the setting up of Scotland's first BSc (Hons) Degree in Veterinary Nursing between CAW and Napier University. I obtained the European School of Veterinary Post Graduate Studies (ESVPS) Certificate in Business & Professional Skills (Cert B&PS) in 2011.

I have a particular interest in Leadership and clinical workflow.  My belief is that the development of both can help veterinary practices deliver consistent quality care leading to professional confidence.

In my spare time I like to travel, read, follow Formula 1 and not always enjoyable, have had a season ticket at Ibrox for over 20 yrs!

You can listen to a short interview with Gillian by Clicking Here

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 janie clare 2016 Janie Clare, VPMA Director

I  trained and qualified as a Nurse at a busy mixed practice in Cheshire. I have been the practice manager of Rutland House veterinary hospital & referral centre for the past 12 years. Managing all 10 branches including the hospital and referral centre keeps me out of mischief!

In my “spare time” I have 2 border terriers and I am a huge vintage VW camper van fan, proudly owning 4.  I also run alongside my hubby at a disability athletics club as I am a shot, discus and javelin coach.

You can listen to a short interview with Janie by Clicking Here

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 diane horner

Diane Horner, VPMA Director

You can listen to a short interview with Diane by Clicking Here

Based in the North West, Diane has held a number of management positions over the years within various industries.

In 2004 she set up an ambulatory 100% equine practice with a veterinary business partner.  Being passionate about horses, but not veterinary-trained, Diane is able to make clear business decisions, unclouded by clinical concerns.  'Managing equine health throughout Greater Manchester' - the team strive to consistently deliver a first class personal service coupled with superior clinical expertise.  Diane also works on a consultancy basis for Onswitch assisting with their operational, people and process management and delivering training to vet practice teams and managers, both small animal and equine.  Prior to the vet world Diane spent 10 years managing Customer Service within a large multinational insurance company adopting many of their business principles within her own practice.   Diane lives with her partner Scott and together they are responsible for 3 horses (Chief, Chewy and Roxanne), 4 cats (Lilly, Richard, Fred and Wilma) and a fox red Labrador named Bryn.  A fan of all things live – music, theatre, comedy, people!

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Past Presidents (since VPMA launch in September 1993)

Renay Rickard: 2016 - 2017

Howard Brown: 2015 - 2016

Helen Sanderson: 2013 - 2015

Pauline Graham: 2012 – 2013

Rebekka Fiorani: 2010 – 2012

Iain Lorraine: 2009 – 2010 

Sarah Hibbert: 2007 - 2009

Rita Dingwall: 2005 - 2007

Brian Wright: 2004 - 2005

Fiona Baxter: 2003 - 2004

Maggie Shilcock: 2002 - 2003

Carole Clarke: 2001 - 2002

Hanno Payne: 2000 – 2001

John Bower: 1998 – 2000

Nancy Fox: 1996 - 1998

John Sheridan: 1993 - 1996