One of the UK’s leading animal hospitals has just launched its first recognised programme to train veterinary specialists.

The Linnaeus-owned North Downs Specialist Referrals in Bletchingley, Surrey, is introducing the
in-house programme as part of an ‘exciting progression and vision for the hospital’, enabling it to provide even greater care for patients and support for colleagues.

The first course will be overseen by Jodie Hughes, an RCVS and European specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia, and one of NDSR’s four specialists in the field, while the hospital’s inaugural resident will be Luisa Oliveira, who has previously completed a rotating internship at North West Veterinary Specialists in Cheshire, which is also part of Linnaeus, and, most recently, an anaesthesia-specific one at NDSR.

Jodie said: “Luisa’s residency will comprise mainly the provision of anaesthesia to multiple animal species, ranging from the ‘simpler’ procedures to the most critical and complex, which we frequently encounter in our interventional cardiac procedures and emergency work.

“A significant component of the training will involve the management of pain, both in the acute setting (in the peri-operative period) and in the chronic setting, whilst dealing with our pain clinic patients.

“Luisa will also be trained in the management of emergency and critical care patients and will undergo rotations in other services to better grasp their requirements.

“As we work exclusively with dogs and cats, we will work in close collaboration with several other hospitals in the UK and continental Europe, to complement Luisa’s training with other species.

“As part of this, Luisa will be exposed to multiple advanced techniques, including ultrasound-guided regional nerve blocks and interventional procedures in our pain clinic.

“There won’t be a specific number of days for clinical work versus study but we expect Luisa to spend at least 20 per cent of her time doing non-clinical work, which would include studying, attending congresses, discussing cases and theory with colleagues, and undertaking research projects.

“The actual training will be supported by the anaesthesia specialists at NDSR with all the clinicians in the multiple disciplines in the hospital also contributing to Luisa’s training.”

Luisa is delighted to be the first resident to be trained in-house by NDSR and said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for me to work alongside an incredibly experienced and skilled team at NDSR.

“I’m thoroughly looking forward to the whole process and to dedicating myself to veterinary anaesthesia, as this an area that focuses directly onto animal welfare, which I hold very dear.

“I’m very grateful to NDSR for the opportunity and for supporting me throughout this journey.”

The training programme has been developed by Rui Pinelas, RCVS and European specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia at NDSR, who is optimistic there will be further training opportunities in the near future.

Rui said: “This was something NDSR has been keen to implement for some time and we had been having ongoing discussions to choose the perfect time.

“In terms of logistics, it took around three months for us to set up this anaesthesia residency, which was largely spent organising our partnerships with the other training facilities and undergoing an evaluation as to whether our facilities and case load would meet the specialist board’s strict requirements, which we are delighted they did.”

NDSR clinical director Gerry Polton, a European and RCVS specialist in oncology, is delighted with the introduction of the course and the benefits it will generate for the practice.

Gerry said: “We are incredibly proud to launch this training programme and to develop a new specialist in anaesthesia and analgesia.

“This will be our first recognised training position and it represents an exciting progression in the vision and culture of the hospital.”

NDSR offers specialist-led services in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopaedics, soft tissue surgery and spinal surgery.

For more information about NDSR, visit or like North Downs Specialist Referrals on Facebook.

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