BVA meetings - The RCVA reports back 

Click here to see the Content of last BVA Council Meeting (Council Report for 1 Dec-2010).


Please see below for recent reports from Council meetings of our parent organisation the BVA, prepared by Joe Sprinz, our RCVA representative on the BA Council.

TENDERING FOR OV WORK - 2nd June 2010.

Joe writes:
On 2 June I attended a Forum at BVA to discuss
This suggestion has been around for some time, in March 2000 the RCVS had an article published in the Vet Record complaining about the announcement at short notice and without consultation that the SVS was about to invite tenders for LVI work. Behind this is the cost of OV work which is c £24m, of which £18m is for Tb testing.
Since attending BVA Council I have heard the following reports about the topic...
Dec 2007 AH is aiming for a professional value to be paid to OVs and is instigating a fiscal review
July 2007 AH has awarded a contract to investigate a new agreement and contract with OVs with terms agreed by BVA. At this stage AH stated “The OV Reform Programme does not seek to introduce competitive tendering for OV work”. This was barely a year after the rules changed requiring competitive tendering.
Dec 2008 AH wants value for money from OVs and is considering an £88 per hour rate
Dec2009 AH reports that it has no money to pay the increased rate
March 2010 AH proposes that its new computer system (replacing Vebus and Vetnet) will free up the extra money needed to pay OVs a living wage.
May 2010 AH reports that it wishes OVs to tender for work.

We were informed at the meeting that this appeared to be a requirement from Animal Health, and that there was not much likelihood that they would revert to a general pay agreement with BVA as has been the case in the past. AH also suggested that the current (low) fee may need negotiating (down). There was a bit of resentment from BVA as to how the information left AH before the agreed time. It all appeared to be a bit of a rush job from AH with them saying that they had only been given 48 hours notice from their legal team that tendering for OV work would be necessary, this is despite the rules on tendering came in to force on 1- February 2006. We are subject to the less stringent requirements of Part B of the tendering legislation, but AH still wishes to proceed, despite flexibility being used in other service fields such as in the NHS to arrange fees for Optical and Dental services, and with the Legal Aid scheme. The initial report from AH said that there was no fixed timescale, that changed to the Pilot Phase will begin in April 2011, with the process introduced in April 2012. You have been warned....
Part of the reason given by AH was “value for money and efficiency”. To bring the costs down may have some mileage in these straitened times, but there is likely to be significant costs in scrapping the old Vebus system, and also scrapping the proposed new Computer system, and there will be significant cost in generating a satisfactory tendering process, and if vets reject the new system they will have to find and pay a large number of freelance contract vets. They apparently have “emergency contractors” in place. This seems surprising as in the South East AH is allegedly below strength, and as it is not permitted to advertise for new staff it is currently barely able to perform its statutory Notifiable Disease work, let alone animal welfare work, which it is passing to non vet staff and the Local Authority to deal with. Currently they ask us to do all sorts of work including Tracing and Retests of IRs. The slightly more believable suggestion was that of quality assurance, where it is possible that some vets may not be doing TT by the book. Would contractors do it better?
Tendering was used in the MHS and initially started with many individual practices participating, this however resolved over the years with the MHS becoming the domain of the big groups who drove prices down, and employed foreign people happy with these wages. The MHS system has benefitted by improved quality of animals presented at slaughter. AH does not have that luxury with Tb becoming more of a problem, let alone any novel disease threat.
AH has not indicated the nature of the structure for tendering; however there was a general feeling that the process, if it produced the lowest common denominator, would probably compromise animal welfare, and certainly surveillance of disease would be reduced.
It was pointed out that the best way to reduce the cost of testing for Tb would be to reduce the level of disease so that we could return to 4 year testing. It was also considered that AH may possibly consider a tender of more actual cost if it incorporated extra value, for example attached to a herd health or biosecurity plan.
The Wales CVO is reported to be “livid” and very concerned that this new arrangement may compromise the Tb control programme in Wales.
At one of the recent meetings BVA had to explain to some of the AH hierarchy as to why vets went out to the same farm 3 days later to do a Tb Test. We also mentioned that Tb Testing is not only very seasonal, with most being done in the winter months, I pointed out that it is also not usually possible to do Tb testing on a Wednesday, as farmers are reluctant to do additional work on Saturday or Sunday. If a large organisation takes over Tb Testing in the country they would have to expect many slack summer months and many slack Wednesdays.
The issue of certification was raised, I understood that Lay testers can confirm non existence of disease, but it needs a vet to confirm the animal is a reactor. Designated Animal Health staff are exempt from this requirement.
The meeting was internal and no representatives from Defra or NFU were present. Many questions were asked, and we probably came to some conclusions.
BVA should continue to discuss these matters with AH, but certainly not condone the change to tendering.
BVA could do a general tender for the veterinary profession, and then return the work to the current practices.
BVA could and should help practices with the tendering process.
BVA is to further investigate through our colleagues in Europe (FVE) as to how the process occurs on the Continent.
BVA is awaiting Rosemary Radcliffe’s report on Cost and Responsibility Sharing due in Dec2010, to assess what impact this may have on Tb testing.

Council Report for March-2010

Held at the Mayfair Conference Centre, (underground so not as good views as the RIBA)

Updating from the December meeting…
Dangerous Dogs. This topic has been exercising the Scottish Parliament recently, with its first stage being accepted. They have introduced the principle of “deed not breed”, which was welcomed by BVA and BSAVA. In England there is a study group reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act, and BVA will be hoping to introduce similar common sense to any new legislation. Views on responsible dog ownership are welcome at policy@bva.co.uk .

The Pet Travel Scheme derogations for the UK have been extended till the end of 2011. We are still looking for a mechanism to allow permanent measures to prevent new and emerging diseases entering individual states.

The Federation of Vets in Europe (FVE) is having regional meetings to discuss various relevant topics including the role of vets in a changing society, and how vets can better deliver their services.

BVA posters on Responsible use of Antibiotics and Anthelmintics have been well received, and will be translated into several other languages. Having seen vets in some other European countries, and their more relaxed attitude to handing out medicines the translations may be interesting. A Scottish poster on handling veterinary waste is to be considered by the Hazardous Waste Group, and Veterinary Policy Group, apparently there are legislative differences on waste matters between the countries of the UK.

Membership Topics. There are now 12,332 members of BVA, slightly up on December’s figure. We sadly lost several eminent members of BVA in the last quarter. RVCA member Dr Walter Plowright among them. Dr Plowright helped to develop the vaccine against Rinderpest which resulted in the disease’s global eradication, for which he was awarded the World Food Prize in 1999. He also played a significant role in the understanding of Equine Herpes virology. He had a lucky escape from a destructive house fire in 2008, when he and his wife were saved by the barking of their dachshunds. Also in the role of honour were Prof Richard Barlow who was an expert on Scrapie, and the first person to show that mice could get BSE by eating infected bovine material. Clifford Wannop who was sadly found dead several weeks after a walking accident used to work for Bernard Matthews (the poultry man), and developed controls for Mareks disease. He showed similarities between Neospora Caninum and Multiple Sclerosis. Another loss was Mark Wharton who had been VBF Treasurer, and made it his job to ensure that donations were of benefit to the recipient.

Chairman of the Board Although income fell back in 2009 mostly due to decreased revenue from advertising (down 21%); other income streams happily increased namely membership (despite introducing group membership), Canine Health Schemes, and Congress. Advertising revenue increased in the second half of 2009. Expenditure was increased slightly, but mostly as a one off cost of moving publications over to BMJ. Despite the operating loss for the year BVA still has a healthy reserve in the bank.

There was a “Debate” entitled “Has the Profession Lost Its Way?” It was interesting to have a discussion rather than be told what BVA thinks and asked to agree, however in any group of 12,000 people, some will have lost their way, but there is a very highly motivated group of young people eager to be vets, and eager to do their best. We do not have the best PR and do not often/ever have the ear of government, which allows us to be sidelined, and that can be a cause of disillusionment. I understood that there was to be a Panorama Programme about veterinary surgeons. Has it been shown?
As a follow on, and after the recent Lowe Report on the veterinary profession, there are to be meetings of a Veterinary Development Council, including representatives from Defra. NFU, BVA, Universities, and research institutes, in connection with vets and the food industry. Defra will be an observer and funder of the VDC. Three meetings are planned to find out what the role of the vet in the food chain should be, whether veterinary education is aligned to the future needs of the market, and finally an attempt to match the supply of vets with the demands of industry.

Council Restructuring is still a topic. Scotland and Wales are still complaining loudly that they will only get on territorial rep. I raised the topic of Edinburgh University (My University) now favours predominantly local students. I was strongly told that the Royal Dick Vet College “takes in a greater proportion of non-Scottish students than the rest of the University”. It still comes over as a bit of a parochial attitude. We were informed that any division wishing a meeting with BVA to discuss the restructuring has only to ask and they will visit us. Do we want such a meeting?
There is no doubt that the role of a regional rep will be much more onerous with the list of duties expected of them considerably more than that of a territorial rep. BVA was not able to give any idea as to the anticipated time likely to be needed by the regional rep in order that they provide the expected service. The papers provided suggested a relatively sudden change to the new system, with elections taking place in March 2011; they then agreed that there would be a rolling change from territorial to regional reps.

The remuneration of OVs was discussed...Despite previous warnings that Defra had no money to increase pay for OVs, there is a change in that they are now proposing another computer system, to replace VEBUS and VETNET, and that the new and improved system will free up a lot of money, so that OVs can finally get a living wage. I hope that this all happens.

There is to be (at some stage) a new Animal Health Bill, BVA has responded in a well thought out manner towards this. They highlight the risks associated with splitting animal health from welfare, and also we understood from the nice Rosemary Radcliffe that the Responsibility and Cost Sharing legislation was not a done deal. This together with the ever awaited “New Veterinary Surgeon’s Act” will await the outcome of the General Election, and the new priorities of the new government.

The Mediation and Representation Service now available from BVA in concert with the experienced BDA team was again discussed. It should be a benefit for both parties, and VPMA should be made aware of its availability, so that young graduates with difficulties can have support in case of needing to meet an employer without the need to resort to lawyers or tribunals.

The Ethics and Welfare Group Reported on the following...The 8000 cow unit in Lincolnshire was mentioned, and although the plans for the unit appear less definite now. It was reported that Tesco had commented that they would not buy any potatoes grown on land which had been fertilised with manure from this herd. There was no explanation. Microchipping of all dogs prior to sale as a result of the Bateson review was reported, but as with the welfare of Tethered Horses, the people with dogs that need microchipped will probably not have them done. People with tethered horses often pay scant regard to legalities of even the grass that they are grazing.
We are regularly asked as to what topics we would like EWG to look into. I raised the topic of the slaughter of fish. This is because both farmed and trawled fish do not benefit from pre-slaughter stunning, which is an EU pre-requisite. We will await their deliberations.

Veterinary Policy Group told us about the sad conditions that impounded dogs are kept in after being seized by the police. Large numbers are kept, and in poor conditions with no likelihood of being returned to their owners or new homes because of the breed. Many are kept for many months before being put to sleep. The view was that the dogs were being punished because of the behaviour of the owners. Scotland has taken the view that Deed is more important than Breed. Certainly locking up dogs with little or no likelihood of release is not humane.

Animal Welfare Foundation reported to us...they are looking into a flow chart in connection with (legal) tail docking. They appreciated the comments in connection with dog breeding, one topic that they raised was the possibility of a Puppy Contract between the breeder and owner, and that Puppy Information Packs (PIPS) may help in improved welfare at the transition of ownership, and in case of problems with the puppy. Amongst other topics they discussed rebranding the Charity, but wish to remain AWF “the charity led by the veterinary profession”. They are having a discussion forum on Monday 17th May (I am not sure of the venue) with a very interesting list of topics. I wondered if the AWF had any influence on M&S and their improved payment to dairy farmers for milk produced from high health and welfare cows!

In any other business...the occurrence of TB in sheep was pointed out to us as a potential additional reservoir of infection.
The sheep vet society also questioned whether the extension of withdrawal of OP dips from 36-75 days was scientifically based.
A sad final AOB was that Professor John Bleby informed us that he was leaving BVA Council he had been there since 1968, and had been a sterling member of the group. We will all miss his common sense, wit, and lack of fear of upsetting the applecart, but were pleased to hear that his successor is an RCVA member Mr Keith Meldrum.

Best wishes
Joe Sprinz

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