Veterinary District Nurse Carla Finzel, addressing the Equality Act 2010 protecting Human-Animal bonds.

Carla’s powerful vision to bring Veterinary nursing care to those who are unable to access the traditional setting for their pets.

Photo of Carla Finzel

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Carla Finzel

Headquarters location: country

  • United Kingdom

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

At present in Sussex but with hopefully winning this prize can take it nationwide.

Website or social media url(s)

Our Website is currently being developed and we anticipate an imminent completion

Date Started


Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Promote inclusivity
  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society
  • Revolutionizing veterinary care for pets
  • Preventing unneccesary Euthanasia of animal companions and/or separation from their owners.

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €10k - €50k

Organisation Type

  • hybrid: a combination of different types of organisations, such as a social enterprise (an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed. ~~ I have a patient - Monty, owned by an 88-year-old lady who has arthritis, cataracts and struggles to walk. She wasn’t able to take him to the vets daily and without support, he would have had to be put to sleep or sent to an animal shelter. Carla said: “If this had happened, imagine the heartbreak for his poor owner? But I was able to go and feed him every day​,​ to make sure he had the right ​dose of insulin​ and check his blood sugar levels. “Now, he’s a healthy weight and is in remission. He no longer has diabetes ​needing insulin injections twice a day ​and for the lady’s peace of mind I visit every few weeks to check he’s ok.”

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve? ~~ That people and their beloved animal companions bonds are protected. So many animals are euthanised or put in shelters because their owners find it challenging to put the veterinary treatments prescribed in place - the veterinary industry expects them to have skill sets that takes a qualified veterinary nurse 4 years to acquire.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

By replicating the human Nursing model (with its extensive suite of specialisms that Nurses can develop into) & using it as a paradigm to implement a community based service, Veterinary District Nursing (VDN). I am setting up an Association to: *Establish a Code of Conduct for VDNs *Set the standards by which VDNs must operate *Establish training standards for VDNs *Provide a template for the development of other specialisms *Provide a Register of qualified VDNs *To lobby and represent the interests of VDNs This will enable a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) to work as a VDN and opens the door to get VN specialities recognised in their own right. Currently in the UK, anyone can call themselves a VN undermining the status of those that have studied to qualify as (RVN). As a consequence, to protect the status of a VDN I have Trademarked “Veterinary District Nurse” so that only those who meet the standards set by the Association will be eligible to call themselves VDN. My VDN model protects the human-animal bond for the benefit of patients, carers and their families, supports RVNs to grow new VN skills, forms new career pathways & improves RVN retention

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

I have founded a National Association, The Veterinary District Professionals’ Association (VDPA) to introduce a regulatory body. This will: *Establish a Code of Conduct *Set the standards by which VDNs must operate *Establish training standards *Provide a template for the development of other specialisms *Provide a Register of qualified VDNs *To lobby & represent the interests of VDNs I've also established a Company with a Veterinary Surgeon, Veterinary District Professionals Ltd to overcome the requirements of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, that demands RVNs be directly employed. The broader purpose of this company is to enable other RVNs to operate under our umbrella, in order to facilitate the establishment of VDNs nationally

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

‘'… working in the community to enable and empower owners to care for their unwell pets at home is invaluable. We have had many cases where this has been instrumental in getting patients home from our hospital much sooner than would have been possible without assistance and support... But, even more importantly, there is help for those pet owners who are out working full/part-time, owners who physically are not capable of dealing with an unwell pet, owners with dementia, elderly owners learning to give insulin to a diabetic patient, owners with disabilities and owners who are anxious about how to administer medications, injections and tube feeds...who are the majority of pet owners to be honest... Carla is our eyes and ears in the community and our go-to whenever someone needs a little help, guidance and a kind ear.”

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

The social impact I have had is twofold: *The impact on the veterinary landscape – my efforts to date have caused a stir with invitations to speak at national conferences, give interviews and articles published in professional journals. As a consequence of my efforts, there is now a growing acceptance for the need of a community based service. *The impact on an individual level – I have an extensive collection of testimonials from Veterinary surgeons and pet owners that reflect the improvement in animal care that I have provided by being the missing link for those pets and owners in need. The future measure of our success will be the number of referrals to a VDN and the size of the membership of the Association. There may be a business case in the future to offer different levels of membership, depending on qualifications.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

Developing accredited training courses Setting standards, procedures and protocols I envisage that the Limited Company is essentially going to act as the implementation division of the Association. Therefore, the Association will hold the membership and receive membership subscriptions whilst the Limited Company will provide training and a means of practice. This service is needed country-wide and is scale-able – (possibly even by franchise) we already have a data-base of 500 + nurses expressing interest in the role.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

*Establish a national Register of qualified, accredited VDNs *Establish a Code of Conduct *Establish a framework for operating practices in the context of a VDN’s Scope of Practice *Promote & support the aims of the Equalities Act, One Health & other initiatives that remove barriers to animal health & welfare for the benefit of pets & their owners *Open up the lines of communications between the wider professional agencies both within human & in animal health & welfare. Examples include: a) Human health: Age Concern, Adult Social Care, Community Nursing Services, GP services, Mental Health Services, Dementia Services b) Animal health: PDSA, RSPCA, StreetVet, Fostering & Boarding Services, Cinnamon Trust, Veterinary Practices, VDNs

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Short Term By offering a VDN service to Vet Surgeries I have been self-funding whilst working solo, initially as research and then to get the project off the ground. There have also been some personal contributions into the company to fund some equipment, the Incorporation charges and trade-marking costs etc Medium Term VDN services paid by Vet Surgeries. Training and Subscription fees as our programme is rolled out. Long Term Expansion of training & registration to increase the fee income. Increasing the numbers of VDNs the Company, acting as an umbrella company, can draft in as either employees or freelancers for the deployment of VDN’s in the community

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

My team includes: * A BVetMed, a qualified Veterinary Surgeon who is a Co-Director & Shareholder of VDP Ltd to provide help and guidance on Veterinary matters & compliance with the requirement that RVNs are employed by a Vet * A Business Manager. Also a Director & Shareholder to provide business expertise & ensure the Company is run professionally & in compliance with all legal & statutory requirements The 3 of us are also co-founders of the Veterinary District Professionals’ Association

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

Having set the foundations for my project in place in 2019 by creating a core team and setting up the Association and Limited Company, winning would enable me to accelerate the establishment of the organisation, infrastructure and resources required to achieve the objectives set out in my answer to Question 8. My immediate actions would be as follows: *Recruit another RVN to free more of my time to develop my project *Complete the development of an accredited course to qualify an RVN as a VDN. This will involve paying professionals with required specialisms to develop their module of the course. *Develop the membership package *Employ an Administrator/PA and other professional services *Complete Website & Client Interface

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Several colleagues encouraged me to enter this competition.

13. Example: Please walk us through one or two concrete examples of how your solution will solve the problem you’re trying to address.

Commonly, pets are sent home with nursing needs that are daunting for owners to cope with, e.g. injections, specialist feeds, dressings. I was asked to attend a cat that was very ill & required feeding via oesophageal tube. The Vet described the cat as “extremely fractious” whilst in the hospital & away from her owner, who herself suffered early onset Dementia, & was most unsettled at home without her beloved pet. The owner expressed her fears & concerns about being able to manage the nursing care, including difficulty following the instructions & fear of hurting her cat. Fortunately, I was in a position to help this desperate pet owner administer the required treatment & I’m happy that 3 years later, both pet & owner are happy & enjoying their lives together. The alternative scenario for the Vet 3 years ago, was to euthanise the cat. As a Dementia Champion, it means so much to enable owners living with Dementia & their pets to access equal & inclusive Vet Nursing care

14. Mutual Benefit: Explain how your project mutually benefits the pets involved – how is the pet not only used as tool?

This is all about improving the health and well-being of the pet and helping the owner by performing tasks at home which the owner is, for any reason, unable to do, for example: *Clients who are unable to access the surgery for any number of reasons *Animals that are best/more easily assessed/treated at home *Infection Control measures *From the human needs perspective, it assists in the support of vulnerable individuals *Similarly, it assists in the support of vulnerable pets *Triage, specialist assessment and monitoring *Hospital/emergency avoidance *To open opportunities of Professional Development to RVNs, who currently have nowhere to progress to. This opportunity for Professional Development will also profoundly improve the standards of care provisions that RVNs will be able to provide

15. Marketplace: Who else is addressing this problem in your environment? How does your proposed project differ from these other approaches?

There are individual RVNs (not all are RVNs which is a problem in itself) trying to provide a service in the community but no co-ordinated or validated organisation with recognised standards are currently available; this is what I have been endeavouring to introduce

16. Tell us about how collaborations and partnerships would enhance the scalability and impact of your project.

Pet Plan & other Insurance Co’s If our service could be covered by a pet’s Insurance, it would reduce cost as an issue to owners & help achieve a wider reach. There Is also the possibility of helping to fund/sponsor the certificate PDSA/StreetVet Would bring the service to the homeless who are often those who are faced with euthanasia as their only other real option, If treatments can't be given. These are often the most fragile people in our community. Referral Hospitals To Improve post-operative care & success A CPD provider or University eg Royal Vet College, London To provide accredited training and certification. Our Ltd Company will act as the implementation division of the Association. The Association will hold the membership & receive membership subscriptions whilst the Ltd Company will provide training & a means of practice. See also the interactions between all the various human & animal health & welfare organisations set out in my answer to Question 8

17. Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions, if any, has the project received so far?

My recognition is two-fold: *The impact on the veterinary landscape – my efforts to date have caused a stir with invitations to speak at national conferences, give interviews & articles published in professional journals. *The impact on an individual level – I have an extensive collection of testimonials from Veterinary surgeons & pet owners I am hoping winning this competition will be my 1st Award, as it will enable me to take a significant leap forward in the realisation of my vision

19. Financial Sustainability (OPTIONAL): Please tell us more about how you plan to fund and scale your project, include an attached document with your detailed business plan or other equivalent information. (This information will NOT be shared with your fellow contestant, it will only be visible to you and internal Prize reviewers).

Please see attached document OVERVIEW & DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF VETERINARY DISTRICT NURSES Currently I am working every day to support myself & build funds in the business. Winning would enable me to acquire the resources needed to accelerate the process & create the infrastructure & logistics required. Phase 1: *Recruit another RVN to free more of my time to develop my project *Complete the development of an accredited course to qualify an RVN as a VDN. This will involve paying professionals with required specialisms to develop their module of the course. *Develop the membership package *Employ an Administrator/PA & other professional services *Complete Website & Client Interface Phase 2: *Recruit RVNs on the course *Recruit trainers/providers to run courses nationally *Accrediting & Registering the VDNs into the Association *Improvement & maintenance of the website Phase 3: *Rolling out the VDN Service *Marketing the Association & VDN role

Evaluation results

1 evaluation so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 100%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 100%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 100%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Does this entry have potential to GROW & demonstrate LEADERSHIP?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 100%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 100%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions or used an old model in a new way - 0%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 0%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 0%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 0%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 0%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 0%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: Your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon - 100%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 100%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jenny Skelton

As the founder of a disability organisation, I am really impressed with Carla’s compassion and dedication to supporting disabled and vulnerable people with their pets. Carla is working towards making the veterinary world compliant with the Equality Act 2010, which is absolutely essential for people’s wellbeing, as well as being the law. Disabled and elderly people - two ‘protected characteristics’ of the Equality Act - often feel completely isolated without their pets. The role of District Veterinary Nurse could play a huge part in combatting this isolation and reducing anxiety for people when their animals become unwell. There are 13.9 million disabled people in the UK alone, many of those with non-visible disabilities, and they/we deserve the care and support which is available to everyone else. I wish Carla all the best in her endeavours.
Jenny Skelton
Founder and Chair
Disability Pride Brighton

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