Celebrating 15 years in Business

Where it all started

June 2004 saw the launch of A1 Locums as a new start-up in the veterinary recruitment industry. Our company started with a select team of just two people, working from the spare bedroom of MD Clare Alderton’s house in Buckinghamshire. Clare, who had previously worked in construction recruitment, moved into veterinary recruitment and after just a short time decided there was an opportunity for her to start her own business.

Clare Alderton
Clare Alderton with Wilbur

In 2004 there were just six agencies specialising in this field; we hear that today there are over 60 and that number is still growing. We have built an excellent reputation in a field that has grown ever larger, and we are proud to have held a premier spot in the industry for over 15 years.

Where we are today

We no longer operate from a spare bedroom. We have moved to an idyllic location on a farm in Northamptonshire; surrounded by open countryside and with the freedom to have pets in the office. They help to create a positive work environment and influence staff wellbeing. We experience great pleasure in having our animals as part of our daily lives, watching their antics and taking turns caring for them.

Developing skills

This year we have taken the opportunity to train our staff through the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). Sophie Vickers has successfully completed her Level 2 ‘Balancing Act’ course, which enables her to get the best from her team and guide them through successful candidate resourcing. Ryan and Marcus have undertaken courses to identify candidate opportunities and develop their skills in this specialism. Lucy and Glenda in our Resources team, have been on courses too. They learned to help identify candidates’ needs more accurately and to be able to support our recruiters 100%. We have also found the REC to be of great support for information and guidance about Brexit and GDPR.

Guinea pig

Looking ahead

With Brexit looming one would have assumed that we have faced a difficult year but quite the contrary has been true. Business has continued to grow, and we are constantly inundated with work. We’re proud that the business is going from strength to strength.

Since the beginning of this year we have seen a large increase in corporates buying up independent practices. Simultaneously, we are currently noticing a new trend where candidates are concerned about their wellbeing, looking for a better work-life balance and less willing to do long hours. There is a corresponding shortage of candidates prepared to commit to full time positions and the out-of-hours work that the corporates require to meet customer demand; yet practices are still recruiting permanent staff.

We are also concerned as we sit and wait, to see what changes Brexit will bring and how they will affect the veterinary recruitment industry. What new turns will it take and how will that change where our work force comes from? It’s certainly challenging! We at A1 locums are, however, ready to take on those challenges and we will continue to show positivity in helping veterinary professionals to find their ideal working environment, whether that is in a permanent role or as a locum.


Remembering Mike

Mike Esslemont-Palmer
Mike Esslemont-Palmer

Anne McManus has been with A1 locums for twelve years. In that time, she has had the privilege of working with vet nurses across the country. It was with great sadness that she recently learned that Mike Esslemont-Palmer, one of her regular locums, had lost his battle with cancer.

We asked her to share some memories of him.

“Mike registered with A1 Locums in June 2016 just before he graduated,. Very keen to get work booked in as soon as he received his RCVS number, his first placement was for Village Vet at their very busy Hampstead Veterinary Hospital,working nights for seven months and returning at regular intervals over the last 3 years. He also worked regular nights for me for Vets Now, Fitzpatrick Referrals Orthopaedics and Neurology and at their Oncology and Soft Tissue Hospital along with other Referral and hospital placements in the south of England.

“Along the way Mike made numerous friends and since his passing I have had five calls from very emotional nurses who also work for me,  that have had the pleasure to work in placements with Mike. All of them have said what a dedicated, lovely,  funny person he was!

“On a more personal note about Mike… he worked solely for me since he joined A1 Locums and I first met him face to face at Vets Now Congress in 2017. He was accompanied by one of the permanent night nurses, Dave from Village Vet , and the most infectious thing about Mike was his cheeky smile; he and Dave had me in stitches; they were like a double act!  We chatted on a weekly basis and he became one of the nurses  who I considered a friend as well as locum. I knew that he hadn’t been well for quite some time but his sheer determination to not let this get in his way is to be commended. I will always remember him with fondness for being a sweet, caring, dedicated, funny guy who loved his job caring for animals. He had a huge passion to travel the world and work with wild animals; his favourite being his love for elephants”.

As a tribute to Mike’s memory, A1 Locums has adopted Larro, an orphaned baby elephant that was rescued this year,

“I will miss our weekly chats and his caring funny demeanour so much!” R.I P Mike.


Putting Names to Faces at Vet Fest 2019

Clare Alderton (left) with visiting locum Charmaine (right)
Clare Alderton (left) with visiting locum Charmaine (right)

A1 Locums has just recently returned from Vet Festival at Loseley Park, near Guildford and it was great to be able to spend some time with our locum, vets, vet nurses and our clients.

Sophie, Marcus and Ryan were the advance team on Thursday evening to set up our stand in beautiful sunshine, put the finishing touches to it and head back to our hotel, to refresh, kick back and enjoy drinks and dinner together before a busy festival.
Hoping for sunshine was not on our radar.On Friday morning it was like the Somme – wet and windy and dampening the festival spirits. People bustled in and the CPD tents were full of eager vets and nurses, sharpening up on their education.

Charmaine Clarke, a locum nurse joined us for the day on our stand to talk to people about “How to be a successful locum”, invaluable advice to the students and veterinary professionals who wanted to know what makes locuming so attractive and how it suits some, better than others. Charmaine was happy to share her experiences and to highlight best practices for working in this way. An expert in her field, Charmaine has worked for A1 Locums for over 11 years in many practices, and still stays loyal to Anne McManus and her nursing team. Watch the video interview.

Apart from the extensive lecture programme with over 100 lectures to choose from, there was a wellness hub, devoted entirely to a series of wellness activities, including yoga and making mediation easy. A place to take some time out and relax. New to the festival this year, they had a Family Hub where veterinary professionals could listen to the CPD, whilst looking after young children.

It was the first visit to Vet Festival for Ryan and Marcus, who joined A1 Locums late last year. Good for them to meet some of the voices they hear on the phone each day.

Friday night was party night, reminiscing about the 80s and dancing to Mad Hen. Certainly, all the dancing kept the team warm. On Saturday our teams changed; Anne and Clare took command of the stand and we had an abundance of veterinary nurses and vets joining us for chats. Good to catch up with up our regulars and meet some new faces.

Also, good to catch up with Fitzpatrick’s Hospital Director, Brian Wright and Roxie O’ Brien, Fitzpatrick’s Clinical Nurse. Sarah Girling, Senior Surgeon for Fitzpatricks’ Orthopaedics, also called by to see Clare to check how Wilbur, our office black Labrador has recovered from his operation she had performed and how the physio programme is helping in his recovery.

Always good to catch up on the latest industry news and listen to new trends. Most importantly see the people who work so hard for us and make the miracles happen.


March is Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month

It was a big change for Bob and Barry, our rescue guinea pigs from B.A.R.K.S. Banbury, when they came to live at A1 Locums.

They were adopted and collected by Sophie and Clare to come to their new home in the Northamptonshire countryside almost six months ago and they now enjoy their daily life in the bustling, lively environment. Their run takes centre stage, literally in the middle of the open plan office, with their individual coloured homes, play tubes, tepees and bowls of delicious vegetables and hay.  When the weather is good, their pen is taken into the garden that borders rambling countryside.

Our guinea pigs are great stress relievers, always ready to have a cuddle or sit in their tepees on staff desks, while we are working! They are curious little creatures with very different personalities. Bob is a little nervy, always looking around and careful of his steps, while Barry is the thug, bold as brass and ready to give the occasional nip in exchange for a cuddle or a hug! Barry is a Peruvian guinea pig and they are typically born with short hair and two rosettes on their hindquarters. Hair from one of these rosettes grows forward and the other grows backward. Hair below the rosettes grows downwards.

Clare and Sophie cuddling the guinea pigsAs the hair begins to grow in length, it should part evenly along the spine, creating a curtain of hair around the body. He must be bathed regularly, and his coat trimmed, something which he does not enjoy.

Bob is easier; a Dutch Guinea pig. Dutch is a colouration characterised by a white body with eye patches and a rump of a different colour. Although nervous, he is much lower maintenance than Barry. Barry is the boss.

They keep us amused, squealing to get attention when people visit the offices but bold and happy enough to be looked upon by TC the cat and Wilbur the dog. Not only are they part of the team, they are also firmly in the public eye, having starred on leaflets, banners and social media posts for A1 Locums.

Since getting our pair, Ryan has joined the veterinary recruitment team and so taken by the guinea pigs when he arrived, he has now adopted two guinea pigs himself, dad and son, Finn and Jake. If he had not taken them from a breeder, they were going to a rescue centre, but Ryan stepped in and now they too, have their forever home.