Why BVA needed to say more on animal health and disease monitoring

Posted on May 11, 2018 by Hayley Atkin

BVA has always championed a robust surveillance network, but we’ve never set out our vision for how the UK’s networks of animal health and disease monitoring should look and the areas it should cover – until now. Our new position paper aims to do just that.

In the paper we set out 25 recommendations on how to modernise and enhance the UK’s disease surveillance networks through:

  • 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

Why are we speaking out about this now?

Brexit

Of course, the B- word. In our Brexit report we outline the importance of maintaining current surveillance systems, reciprocal data sharing with Europe and new opportunities for industry/government collaboration on jointly funded programmes. With the current Health and harmony consultation on the future of farming post-Brexit, it was paramount that we had something well-thought out and substantive to say on animal health and disease monitoring and data sharing.

Surveillance 2014

Surveillance has had a few years to bed in and now we’re really starting to understand the impact of the reductions that were made to the surveillance network in England and Wales. In our survey, 70% of those asked told us that they felt that their contacts with VIOs had changed for the worse since Surveillance 2014.

Data, data, data

We know that there are untapped sources of data that could be better utilised to optimise our surveillance networks eg. data from private laboratories, fallen stock sites, health records, farm assurance schemes. It was time to think about the best ways to incentivise data sharing and consider successful models in other countries and areas of medicine. The UK Governments have already started making really positive steps towards modernising how the profession can derive value from contributing to the surveillance network ( ie. APHA Livestock Disease Surveillance Dashboards) we want to influence and contribute to these conversations to show vets ‘What’s in it for me?’

Media attention

Two words, Alabama Rot. The media attention that has been generated by the fast spread of this disease in dogs and the relative mystery surrounding it has put the spotlight on small animal surveillance. We need to rethink the boundaries of what we considered to be disease surveillance, explore how the profession values animal health and disease monitoring in small animal practice and consider whether this should ultimately be coordinated by the UK Governments.

Profession considering alternative careers

We know that as a profession vets are more and more looking towards alternative careers. With this in mind, we want to reinforce the role and status of the Veterinary Investigation Officer and consider how to make the role an attractive, diverse and flexible one

Now what?

We’ve already started speaking to the relevant people in the Surveillance Intelligence Unit and the Animal Health Surveillance Governance Board about our recommendations. We’re also going to be writing to the UK CVOs to request meetings to discuss our paper.

Finally, we know that when it comes to surveillance communications, we also have to get our own house in order. So, to kick start this process, we’ve refreshed our surveillance webpage to make it more useful for members and will be considering the best ways revamp our animal health and disease monitoring engagement going forward.

Ultimately, we want this position paper to do what surveillance reporting itself is all about, interpret the evidence so that the appropriate people can take action.

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.