A SOUTH Essex vets is closing its out-of-hours service and pets will be sent “almost an hour away” due to staff shortages.

Concerned customers at Cherrydown Vets, which has branches in Basildon, Wickford, and Stanford-le-Hope, have been told they will need to contact a vet in Epping Forest if their pet is poorly outside working hours.

Previously, the vets offered an out-of-hours service which meant customers could receive treatment and advice 24 hours a day.

Basildon resident Tracey Flattery said: “I am very concerned that they are moving up to an hour away.

“Most medical emergencies need prompt veterinary intervention and shipping them to Epping is not the actions of a caring, responsible organisation.

“I don’t drive either so not only unethical but unpractical for non-car drivers.

“If they go ahead with this I will be moving vets.”

The out-of-hour service is set to change from next Monday, however a series of consultation events are being held.

A 44-year-old Basildon resident, who has used Cherrydown for 16 years, added: “I think it is utterly ridiculous.

“If you need to use the out of hours service, it will be for an emergency. If your pet is in pain or distress, you need them seen as soon as possible and every minute counts.

“Currently, my journey would be 15 minutes, and even that journey felt far too long when I needed to make it for an emergency, but I cannot imagine having to drive over 40 minutes instead.

“In a case such as a twisted bowel or an obstruction, the pet probably wouldn’t survive the 40 minute travel and if it did, it would probably be too late to be able to treat it successfully.”

The vets is hosting drop-in sessions regarding the changes, tonight between 7pm and 8pm and on Thursday between 7pm and 8pm.

In a statement, Cherrydown Vets added: “All out-of-hours care will now be transferred to Forest Veterinary Centre Hospital in Epping.

“We have made this decision due to a shortage of vets available, and in order to continue to provide the highest standard of care for our patients during our regular operating hours.”