To celebrate Vets Now’s 20th birthday, Judith, our central facilities manager in Glasgow, looks back on the company’s formative years

Founded by vet Richard Dixon in a single Glasgow clinic in December 2001, Vets Now has since grown into a highly successful business, with more than 60 out-of-hours clinics nationwide and two state-of-the-art 24/7 hospitals.  

It’s all a world away from the humble beginnings of that very first clinic.  

Judith McLetchie, who’s been with Vets Now since the earliest days, shares her memories of a heady two decades that changed the UK’s veterinary scene forever.  

From the moment she left school, Judith McLetchie knew she wanted to be around animals. 

Vet nursing didn’t quite suit, so being an animal care assistant seemed to fit the bill perfectly. 

She took on just such a role at the PDSA in Glasgow – but she couldn’t have imagined the path it was about to set her on. 

Portrait of Judith McLetchie
Judith McLetchie shares her memories of a heady two decades that changed the UK's veterinary scene forever. 

“I was an animal care assistant working overnight with the PDSA when Vets Now came in providing the out-of-hours cover,” said Judith. 

“As the number of calls started to increase, I was asked to take on a role as receptionist and then I quickly became the senior receptionist as we hired more staff. 

“The business was at that build stage, with new ventures and a whole new set-up. 

“It was so exciting as you could see this was a service the profession had been waiting for and really needed. 

“Until then you’d always had a vet who had potentially been working all day, then got called out at night to see a case and had to be back seeing patients in practice the next morning.” 

It was so exciting. You could see this was a service the profession had been waiting for and really needed.

Judith McLetchie

The veterinary service was always first class, as were the clinicians, but the premises at the PDSA didn’t have all the equipment the teams wanted.  

That was all to change with the establishment of the new Vets Now hospital in Glasgow in 2009, a real game-changer in the veterinary sector. 

By then, Judith had moved into a management role, and it was a day she’ll always remember. 

“We’d seen it as a shell when all the workmen were in and it was hard to visualise just how it would look,” recalled Judith. 

“So, it was incredible to be there when it was all ready. We had photographers along to see it and we were all buzzing, giggly and excited. There was a bit of nervousness, too, as none of us really knew what the future held. 

“It was a big place and there was a feeling that we had a big business to build up. 

“We were ready to accommodate referral cases during the day and then look after the emergencies at night and during weekends. 

“There was definitely a sense of a big new development coming.” 

snippet of 20th birthday video

Just as the emergency out-of-hours care had taken off at the PDSA, within a few months the referral business from other vets was booming. 

More staff were taken on, new equipment bought, and further expansion plans made. 

From just a few dozen staff originally, the Glasgow Hospital now has well over 100 people working at different times during the week. 

“One thing I have always loved about working here is that no two days are ever the same,” said Judith. 

“And the development opportunities have been tremendous. I’ve gone from receptionist, senior receptionist, reception manager, operations manager and now central facilities manager. 

“I’ve always felt that I’ve been encouraged to develop myself and there have always been courses that have helped, including on the clinical side as you’ve got to have that knowledge.” 

The development opportunities have been tremendous. I've gone from receptionist, senior receptionist, reception manager, operations manager and now central facilities manager.

Judith McLetchie

Judith hasn’t just had a bird’s eye view of the vast redevelopment and expansion of the Glasgow hospital, she’s also been on hand to look at the wider picture. 

“There has been so much change over the past 20 years and that definitely includes owners’ attitudes,” said Judith. 

“When we first started, I’d say 80% to 90% of owners didn’t have insurance for their pet. Now it’s totally the other way around and the vast majority have their pet insured. 

“And dogs are now treated much more like a family member. Years ago they were loved, but they were very much an animal. 

“I’ve seen a massive change in the money people will spend and they will do whatever it takes. And with the facilities we have here, there is so much more we can do to help.” 

Judith’s new role involves liaising with other Vets Now locations, but she still regularly gets to see the animals that drew her into the profession in the first place. 

And her new responsibilities are bringing back memories of the early days. 

“I’ve got the same kind of feelings when I look to the future – excitement and a little bit nervous!” she adds.