COMMONS

Secure UK's capacity to tackle animal health say MPs

09 March 2012

The Government must ensure cost-saving measures at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) do not diminish the UK’s ability to identify and tackle animal disease outbreaks, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

In a letter to the agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, the EFRA Committee warns DEFRA that plans to close AHVLA laboratory services at sites across the UK may risk a reduction in the Agency’s ability to diagnose important animal diseases. The letter sets out a number of concerns raised by farmers, vets and AHVLA staff about the rationalisation programme.

“We received worrying expert evidence that the transport of animal samples to distant laboratories, following the closure of AHVLA sites, will lead to a deterioration in samples with an associated risk of failing to diagnose animal disease. In addition, there is a risk that the Agency will lose key specialist skills,” says Anne McIntosh, Chair of the EFRA Committee.

The evidence we received suggests that there was insufficient consultation. The Committee conclude that at a time when the Government needs the cooperation and confidence of the farming and veterinary professions greater transparency and consultation is needed to build trust.

NOTES TO EDITORS

On 23 September 2011, the AHVLA announced plans to reorganise its Regional Laboratory Structure. The reorganisation involved the rationalisation of laboratory services. Diagnostic testing of samples currently undertaken at Thirsk, Truro and Langford will be transferred by 31 March, 2012; and work being done at Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Luddington, Preston and Winchester will be transferred by 31 March, 2013. The work will be redistributed among the AHVLA's laboratories at Bury St Edmunds, Lasswade, Newcastle, Penrith, Shrewsbury, Starcross, Sutton Bonington and Weybridge.

The EFRA Committee took evidence from Cornwall Wildlife Trust Marine Strandings Network; National Pig Association; AHVLA Thirsk Regional Laboratory Veterinary Investigation Officers; British Veterinary Association and British Cattle Veterinary Association on 31 January 2012 and Rt Hon James Paice MP, Minister of State, Defra, Mr Nigel Gibbens, Chief Veterinary Officer and Catherine Brown, Chief Executive, AHVLA on 1 February 2012.

The EFRA Committee letter to the Minister of State, Defra on AHVLA and the evidence submitted to the Committee can be found on the inquiry page.

Image: IStockphoto 

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