Vet associations cautious as TB tendering plans revealed

Veterinary associations have reacted cautiously to the announcement by AHVLA outlining details of a new model for the supply of veterinary services to be implemented from mid-2014, ending the uncertainty surrounding the issue of tendering.

The new model, covering England and Wales, will include:

  • Contracts being awarded to approximately ten Delivery Partners to supply a flexible package of veterinary services, including TB testing and other government-funded services, such as brucellosis testing, on the basis of regional or national lots;
  • The procurement of a single supplier responsible for providing a comprehensive system of training and support, incorporating revalidation, with the cost of training falling to the trainee or their employer
  • Tenders being awarded based on cost, ability to deliver a consistent quality-assured service, the provision of a responsive service and the use of small and medium-sized businesses
  • The introduction of a modular ‘Certificate of Competence’ to be held by an individual vet and fully portable between employers

Following AHVLA’s announcement of the intention to tender for Official Veterinarian (OV) services in May 2010 the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) consulted with members and highlighted a number of concerns and queries relating to the impact on disease eradication plans and surveillance and the detail of the plans for procurement.

In March 2012 BVA and BCVA presented an alternative model for TB testing to the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) and many of the elements in the proposal have been included in the new model, including an element of ‘TB Plus’ – a concept developed further by BCVA and presented to the AHWBE in February 2013 as a more holistic approach to national endemic disease control.

Commenting on the AHVLA announcement, BVA President Peter Jones said:

“The uncertainty over the future of TB testing for the last few years has put a real strain on our members and so we are pleased that AHVLA has finally come forward with plans for the new model.

“While BVA’s legal advice does not fully support the direction that AHVLA has taken in terms of procurement we are aware of the pressure on the government to deliver a new and affordable system at a time of severe financial constraints, and we have therefore continued to push for essential elements highlighted by our members and divisions.

“AHVLA has listened to our call for a system that involves local practices as far as possible and gives time for practices to plan for the future.

“While we understand that some members will be disappointed and concerned about the introduction of tendering, it is important that practices understand what is happening to make sure they get the most out of the new arrangements.

“We’re keen to hear views from members about the new model so that we can feed in as it is refined ahead of the final invitation to tender later this year. We encourage potential suppliers to engage with the process and attend the AHVLA supplier days on 3rd and 5th September.”

Jonathan Statham, President of BCVA, added:

“One of the major concerns raised by our members has been the uncertainty over staffing levels ahead of the next TB testing season and we now know that it is business as usual until the new model comes in next year.

“However, we have serious reservations over the introduction of tendering. Although we are pleased that the model does pick up on some of the key elements of the BVA and BCVA presentation – particularly the role for small and medium-sized practices in local areas – and our TB Plus model – it fails to acknowledge that genuine progress on control of bTB requires a much more holistic approach. Only by successfully controlling TB and other diseases will we truly control the cost of government-funded services.

“A concept of ‘Animal Health England/UK’ has been proposed and would encourage major delivery partners for government-funded veterinary services to work in partnership with industry for real progress in control of endemic cattle disease. There is a significant risk with the current announcement that short-term cost control and profit generation will dominate the agenda and limit measurable progress.”

 

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