Vet lab changes raise questions about future surveillance

Flock of sheep

Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has announced that its laboratory services work is to be delivered from fewer locations.

Laboratory services involving testing, research and development work are currently delivered by scientists based at sixteen sites located across Great Britain. In the future work undertaken at eight of the locations (specified below) will transfer to other AHVLA laboratories during two phases:

Phase 1: Thirsk, Truro and Langford (to complete by 31 March 2012)

Phase 2: Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Luddington, Preston, and Winchester (to complete by 31 March 2013)

The laboratory-based work undertaken at these sites will be redistributed amongst the laboratories at Bury St Edmunds, Lasswade, Newcastle, Penrith, Shrewsbury, Starcross, Sutton Bonington, and Weybridge. 

AHVLA has announced that this change does not affect the location of post mortem (PM) facilities, the activities currently undertaken by the veterinary investigation officers, or the surveillance programme. 

Commenting, Carl Padgett, President of the BVA, said:

“We recognise the very difficult task AHVLA is undertaking to find significant budget savings and more efficient ways of working. However, at our recent Council meeting and annual Congress we heard the concerns of our members loud and clear.

“Although phases one and two will not include veterinary redundancies the loss of scientific colleagues and their expertise will have a knock-on effect.

“This announcement also raises many questions about the provision of services and the future of Britain’s surveillance network.

“How will PM examinations be facilitated? What level of carcass-side testing will be retained at the sites? What is AHVLA’s assessment of the impact of more work going to private labs? How will AHVLA gather and coordinate surveillance information from more disparate sources?

“We are also keen to discuss the potential impact in Wales with the Welsh CVO and the BVA’s Welsh Branch, particularly given the difficult transport situation within the country.

“The future of AHVLA regional laboratories remains uncertain and the BVA joins with BCVA in reminding members who wish to retain their local lab to ‘use it or lose it’. AHVLA will need to see a strong business case for keeping the labs in the longer term.”

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