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A practitioner ponders

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It's 3am – the insomniac hour for mulling over the previous day's successes and failures, the time for a mug of cocoa and a quick channel hop on the television before the soothed brain can be eased back to sleep.

It is not so long ago that there was nothing on television at this hour, not even an obscure lecture from a wing-collared former hippy (a guaranteed cure for insomnia); only the puppet and blackboard of the trusty test card. In essence, the BBC did nothing for several hours.

Nowadays, we have so much more and yet there is still nothing on; I can hop between a myriad programmes that hold no interest whatsoever. The only difference is that the TV channels appear to be trying to do something. Really rather like some therapies. How often do we feel the need to do something – to give a therapy that will certainly do no harm, but almost equally likely to do no good (eg, the vitamin injection to the diarrhoeic dog or posthibernation tortoise)?

And why? Well, the owner expects it. Just as I switch on the television expecting to see something, so an owner expects to pay the vet for something to be done. They never complain if you give a jab, do they? But we've all heard the ‘£30 and he didn't do anything’, forgetting the advice given that will, should the owner act on it, put their pet right.

But what is wrong with doing nothing? Many owners will actually feel they have got a good deal if given plenty of good advice, a thorough examination and, of course, a well pet in a short period of time.

The main problem is us – it is harder to do nothing than to do something. Because if you do nothing, there is nothing to blame but yourself if there is a problem. If drugs are given, it is they that have not worked; if only advice is given, then it is the vet that has not ‘worked’.

The BBC is complaining about the cutbacks. It feels it will have to cut the less fashionable (yet more useful to so many) foreign language services – that is, the services that do something. Instead, it will continue to fill the schedules of several channels while really showing nothing. Perhaps if it had the confidence not to make ‘filler’ programmes and reverted to the test card, it would have the funds to do more useful higher quality work?

Perhaps, if we had more confidence in our judgement and the confidence that the majority of our clients have in us, then we would be able to spend the time taken looking for the bottle of vitamins talking to the client instead. It is not necessarily a failure if the client has to come back again, rather a confirmation that the problem is definitely serious enough to warrant intervention – intervention that both owner and vet will be aware is then needed.

Can we survive without our ‘props’? Or will already high anxiety levels be increased? Will this sort of approach result in increased insomnia and improved sales of chocolate? Of course, if the television companies took the same approach, there would be nothing to watch at 3am either!

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