http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/inquiry/368.pdf

Short extract from the full pdf file from the Royal Society Inquiry

 

OBSERVATIONS ON THE FOOT & MOUTH

DISEASE OUTBREAK 2001

ANGUS M TAYLOR MRCVS

Past President British Veterinary Association and The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

CREDENTIALS

I qualified in 1941 and joined MAFF in 1943. I worked for MAFF in various parts of the country, including Headquarters for nearly 40 years. I was Divisional Veterinary Officer (DVO) for Cheshire from 1963-1968. I set up the first Foot & Mouth Disease Centre in Cheshire at Crewe in 1967 and worked there until May 1968. It was my seventeenth Foot & Mouth Centre since 1943. We had four centres in Cheshire, at Crewe, Chester, Northwich and Macclesfield (see Appendix l) I was a Technical Advisor to the British Veterinary Association when its committee was preparing evidence to present to the Northumberland Committee in 1968. I gave oral evidence to that Committee on behalf of the Association of State Veterinary Officers.

STAFFING IN THE STATE VETERINARY SERVICE

SINCE 1968

The Urwick Orr Management Report set up the Agricultural Development & Advisory Service (ADAS) in 1971 into which the State Veterinary Service (SVS) was amalgamated, wrongly in my opinion, by the then Permanent Secretary Sir Basil Engholm. It was a top heavy management structure that so alarmed the Treasury that when Engholm retired in 1973, they sent in their own man, Sir Alan Neill, to alter things.

In the next twenty years, over a dozen management groups, internal and external, have investigated the work of the SVS - a service recognised throughout the world during the 1970s as a model for most countries. All of these reviews gradually reduced the standing veterinary staff and laboratories of the SVS on the pretext of "increasing efficiency" which they never did, culminating in the Le Brecht Report of January 1994. No indication was given as to the names of those assisting in the preparation of this Report nor of their knowledge of the subject. I have since discovered that it consisted of Andrew Le Brecht (an Assistant Secretary) and an accountant! There was no veterinary involvement. The Report was accepted by Waldegrave, the then Minister, and then implemented by the Permanent Secretary, Richard Packer, whom I suspect was the main instigator of the adoption of the Report.

Le Brecht was sent to take charge of the Exeter Foot & Mouth Centre when an Under Secretary and is now the Director General of Food and Agriculture and a principal advisor to DEFRA Ministers.

My letter to the Daily Telegraph (unpublished for obvious reasons) of 28 February at the start of the 2001 outbreak, details the cutback in veterinary staff (see Appendix B) Many experienced staff were made redundant and they would have been useful if available to the SVS in 2001. The Chief Veterinary Officer at the time of the Le Brecht Report warned the Permanent Secretary that the staff cuts would result in it being impossible to handle an extensive outbreak of disease. The Vice President of the BVA, Bob Stevenson, described the cutbacks as a "recipe for disaster". Many letters were written by retired staff and a former CVO to the Veterinary Record warning of the dangers of the cutbacks, and, despite representations by the BVA to the Minister, all were ignored.

ORGANlSATlON

The widespread nature of the outbreak in February 2001 put an immediate strain on the resources of the SVS. The tracing from infected markets quickly used veterinary resources in the SVS and appeals to the veterinary profession for help were soon answered. The disease was already out of control and EU regulations concerning laboratory confirmation increased the risk of spread.

CULLING

The widespread culling was a political act because of the necessity to hold a General Election. It was based on computerised graphs and reports from Professors Anderson, Ferguson, Krebs and King. The latter appeared to take control of the outbreak from the Chief Veterinary Officer. This would not have been tolerated by the experienced veterinary staff in 1967/68. It is interesting how similar the two graphs for 1967168 and 2001 appear to be; a peak at 4-5 weeks and then a long tail.

There is nothing more difficult than to tell a farmer that his healthy stock must be slaughtered and the extensive culling obviously caused resentment and affected the morale of the staff involved.

Dangerous contacts and occasionally neighbouring premises were slaughtered out in 1967/68 but local staff were given great discretion and we used it on many occasions.

VACCINATlON

This was never contemplated in 1967/68. The vaccines available were not very effective in pigs, sheep and young animals. Efficient vaccines were available in 2001 but as the disease was already out of control where would one start? Who would carry out the vaccinations? The veterinary staff in the SVS were fully occupied. The staff that could be spared from practices were already employed by MAFF in fighting disease. The organisation necessary before vaccination could be carried out, would probably take two weeks, by which time it would be too late. Immunity would take a further seven days. People who advocate vaccination have never taken these matters into consideration and instead jumped on to the ‘vaccination bandwagon’. .

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. The State Veterinary Service must be expanded. The Regions are far too large as are the divisions and staff must be trained in both diagnosis and organisation of Foot & Mouth Centres.
  2. Large centres must be avoided as this leads to a lack of control .
  3. If veterinary staff are properly trained, there should be no need for the intervention of senior administrative staff who are not used to dealing with emergencies.
  4. I do not see any reason why courses in diagnosis should not be arranged at Pirbright. I am aware of the necessity for precautions are taken. . security but this should not be a problem if the usual
  5. More discretion should be given to senior veterinary staff at the Foot 8t Mouth Centres. I was appalled at some of the decisions to cull pet animals which resulted in dreadful public relations when the animals were healthy and is no real risk of spreading disease.
  6. The EU regulations appear to have an inhibiting effect on action; we had no such problems in 1967/68.
  7. There should be an immediate increase in the number of Divisional Veterinary Managers in the counties that are not covered at present, eg., Cheshire, Shropshire, Northumberland/Durham. These are counties that I have .worked in and know the livestock densities.
  8. The number of Regions should be increased to what they were before the Le Brecht Report and the Deputy Regional Officer Grade should be reinstated in order to increase the liaison with local practices and organisations which has been lost as a result of this report. It is difficult for bureaucrats to admit that they are wrong and this may be resisted. It was the lack of middle veterinary management in the field that contributed greatly to the 2001 disaster.
  9. The present system whereby veterinary officers are promoted to Headquarters and appear to remain there permanently should be reviewed. In my day, three years was the normal period after which you were sent back to the field. The present Headquarters’ staff have little or no experience of Foot & Mouth Disease and this was evident during the early stages when field staff required confirmation of the disease on farms.
  10. I cannot emphasise too strongly that small centres give the greatest control of disease. The Centres at Chester and Crewe in 1967, although they worked, were probably too large and the Carlisle and Exeter Centres during the 2001 outbreak covered too large an area for proper control. Staff appeared unable to cope. Report cases were not dealt with immediately as in 1967/68.

Summary

  • Increase veterinary field staff to pre-Le Brecht levels.
  • Train staff in Foot & Mouth Disease diagnosis.
  • Small centres increase efficiency and control but senior veterinary staff must be in charge.
  • There are now at least 90 Assistant Secretaries in DEFRA. When the SVS was enlarged in 1938, there were only 8 in the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • DEFRA has now expanded at Headquarters with three new posts: Director General of Food and Agriculture (Le Brecht), Director General of Operations (Addison) and the Chief Veterinary Officer is now Director General of Animal Health. The increase in staff should be in the field and not in creating more bureaucrats at Headquarters.
  • EU Directives appear to have an inhibiting effect on rapid diagnosis and efficient action when disease outbreaks occur and should be reviewed A M TAYLOR