BVA position on health and disease monitoring - one year on

Posted on May 28, 2019 by Hayley Atkin

This time last year we launched our vision for how the UK’s scanning surveillance networks should look and championing the breadth of animal health and disease monitoring in the UK. From livestock to wildlife, equine and companion animals, we recognised the integral role of vets as the eye and ears of animal health and welfare.

So, what’s happened since we launched our position?

Back in May 2018, our 25 recommendations set out how the UK governments and key stakeholders can work together and modernise the UK’s disease surveillance networks. As a brief refresher, our 25 recommendations covered:

  • Maintaining the current level of Government resource spent on the scanning surveillance network
  • Adopting new approaches to data collection and feedback
  • Optimising appropriate skills and expertise
  • Rethinking traditional approaches to funding and coordination
  • Articulating the value of surveillance reporting to the veterinary profession and other stakeholders through education to increase awareness and participation
  • Working collaboratively with stakeholders to explore innovative communication strategies

Continued engagement with UK Chief Veterinary Officers

The response and enthusiasm to the BVA position paper has been brilliant. After writing to the UK CVOs with the paper, we were thrilled to see them support our view on animal health and disease monitoring in a letter to Vet Record. In the letter the CVOs also announced establishment of the UK Surveillance Forum (UKSF). BVA now sits on this forum, which is bringing oversight to the breadth of surveillance activities going on in the UK.

We also have quarterly meetings with the UK CVOs in the diary to discuss progress in modernising and coordination across UK surveillance networks.                

Surveillance and veterinary education

2019 has been big for veterinary education, with RCVS consulting on its graduate and professional development phase outcomes proposals. We’ve taken this opportunity to stress that understanding the role and importance of the vet in health and disease monitoring should be recognised in the Day One Competences. Similarly, we emphasised the importance of supporting non-clinical career choices throughout undergrad education and the Professional Development Phase. This will be one small, but important, step in championing the role Veterinary Investigation Officers are working towards making the role a more attractive, diverse, and flexible one.

Collaboration and communication

Work to improve reporting into health and disease networks and get value back from our contributions is ongoing. Following our recommendations about collaborative communications, we’re really excited to see APHA in the midst of drafting a communication strategy. A government-led communication strategy that galvanises support from farmers, private vets, and government vets will really help to get the message across that surveillance matters, and, ultimately, all stakeholders derive value from contributing in some way.

BVA communications

Importantly, this year BVA has practised what we preach by spicing up our own surveillance communications; from blogs on how to contribute to disease monitoring and championing the value of Veterinary Investigation Officers to using our social media to let members know how to derive more value from current systems  e.g. through the APHA Livestock Disease Surveillance Dashboards.

Looking towards the future

Of course, our policy recommendations won’t just materialise overnight and with Alabama Rot still hitting the headlines there remains a lot of work to be done to support small animal health and disease monitoring.

We also know that in Scotland, with the post mortem service at Inverness coming to an end, a new model of diagnostic support in the area will be introduced. As vets on the ground, if you have any feedback on how the new service is going we’d love to hear your thoughts so that we can feed this back to government. Feel free to drop us a line on scotland@bva.co.uk with any thoughts.

Despite these changes, with the enthusiasm and positive progress already initiated by APHA, AFBI, SAC, SAVSNET and the UK CVOs, we’re hopeful that more innovative approaches to health and disease monitoring across species are in the pipeline.

Hayley Atkin

Written by Hayley Atkin

BVA Policy Officer

Hayley provides the secretariat to BVA Scottish Branch and works with BVA members to develop evidence-based policy spanning companion animals, animal disease surveillance and farm assurance.