April 2014The Royal College of Pathologists (RCP) want an urgent review of government funding cuts to animal health surveillance. DEFRA now plans to halve the number of animal health surveillance laboratories in England and Wales from 14 to 7. Two of the seven laboratories – Luddington and Preston – have already closed. In its almost inimitable governmentspeak, the AHVLA insists that the changes will offer an "improved approach" to the monitoring of animal disease threats. The RCP response to this is voiced by the RCP president Dr Archie Prentice
"These plans do not seem to be based on sound evidence but on cost cutting; the effect will be a halving of the existing network of surveillance postmortem examination facilities.The RCP questions how proposed new systems of disease surveillance and intelligence sharing will actually work. A College spokesman is quoted at http://mrcvs.co.uk/en/news/11683/.
We think these changes should have been piloted before roll-out.
We are not opposed to change but it is vital that expertise in veterinary pathology is sustained and improved so that surveillance is more effective, not less."
"There has been no explanation of how outsourcing tests to services outside DEFRA control will provide high-quality, effective testing"Dr Prentice said that prompt laboratory analysis was the pivotal component of the identification of Schmallenberg virus, and laboratory diagnostics have improved greatly in the last decade.
"If current molecular and cellular pathology techniques were applied to a case of BSE (mad cow disease), confirmation that it was a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy could be confirmed within days. We should be looking for ways to sustain and improve expertise in veterinary pathology.
We fear the current proposals - which seem to be based on unfounded opinions and untested assumptions - are likely to damage it."
23 September 2011 ~ Vet laboratory closures confirmed, reports BBChttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-15039081 "Laboratory work at eight veterinary centres will be phased out over the next two years, it has been confirmed. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) said the change could save it about £2.4m a year. Centres in Thirsk, Truro, Langford, Aberystwyth, Carmarthen, Luddington, Preston and Winchester are affected by the plan. Veterinary science laboratories are responsible for animal health testing, which includes the early diagnosis of diseases such as bovine TB and swine fever. .... Laboratory services in Thirsk, Truro and Langford will be phased out by March 2012. The remaining centres affected will cease to do the work by March 2013.
Laboratory services at Bury St Edmunds, Lasswade, Newcastle, Penrith, Shrewsbury, Starcross, Sutton Bonington and Weybridge are being retained."
September 27th 2011~ Lab closures: "Such a decision affects animal health and human health. This seems a huge backward step."
On the subject of the proposed AHVLA laboratory closures, expert virologist, Dr Ruth Watkins, writes:
If the VLA labs at Carmarthen and Aberystwyth close there will be none in Wales.Other informed comment very welcome (email)
There is no Veterinary School of Medicine in Wales.
Where would I take any animal for post mortem? I could never get another post mortem on a calf, sheep, lamb, hen and so on. What would happen to the standard of veterinary medicine in Wales when there were no such checks, found to be essential in human medicine, and of course for veterinary medicine too.
Probably FMD diagnosis would be little affected as samples from sick animals where FMD is suspected are couriered to Pirbright. But what about avian flu in chickens, salmonella deaths in lambs, and all the other diagnoses not confirmed in life or not suspected that are made post mortem that affect the management of one's animals, farm and domestic? Such a decision affects animal health and human health. This seems a huge backward step.
September 26th 2011 ~ Lab closures: savings made would be vastly and disastrously outweighed by the potential cost of failing to detect Foot & Mouth or dangerous zoonoses
The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) whose role is
"to help safeguard animal health and welfare and public health, protect the economy and enhance food security through research, surveillance and inspection"plans to close labs at Langford, Aberystwyth, Truro, Thirsk, Wincester, Luddington, Carmarthen and Preston by April 2013. But that such closures will make Britain more vulnerable to another foot and mouth outbreak is the view of Paul Roger, a positive force for sanity in the horrors of 2001. Now president of the Yorkshire Veterinary Society, Mr Roger says that this is a plan taken without consultation with industry experts. He told the Ripon Gazette:
" ...If you remove those people and their specialist knowledge, you remove part of the investigation team and you stand more chance of missing things. That has implications not only for animal health, but public health also ... .. not only do you risk devaluing the service locally, but it raises questions about the quality of the surveillance across the country for identifying diseases and the entry of new diseases."These closures, if they go ahead, could save £2.4m a year. The savings made would be vastly and disastrously outweighed by the potential cost of failing to detect diseases such as FMD (especially since the UK makes no provision for the new technology of rapid diagnosis done on-farm in its Contingency Plan.) To put the sum in perspective, £2.9m was the sum spent by the RPA merely on "external consultants" last year and one remembers the bill topping £500 million (sic) revealed by the NAO as the full cost of the bungled handling of the Single Payment Scheme - fines (or, more euphemistically, "Disallowance Penalties") DEFRA must pay the European Commission. Interestingly, it is the MP for Thirsk and Malton herslef, Anne McIntosh, who as Chairman of EFRA said that bonuses at the RPA should be halted until performance improves. See RPA pages