Animal health services - field delivery: review extension

This is a supplementary paper to the original report entitled "Field delivery of animal health services in Scotland: review", taking account of EU Exit, animal health and welfare legislation and COVID-19.

4 - Scope of the Proposed Scottish Veterinary Service

4.1 During the 2020 review there was enthusiasm for a wider integration of animal health, public health, aquatic and bee health operational services into a single body (Option 3) resulting in Recommendation 2 - the transition to a separate SVS provides an opportunity to deliver efficiencies and enhanced service excellence through the formation of a bespoke delivery body with a wider range of functions than that currently delivered by APHA in Scotland. Additional areas for consideration could include, but not be limited to; meat hygiene inspection, animal feed controls, scanning surveillance, aquatic disease control, bee health as well as a greater clarity and responsibility for farmed animal health and welfare enforcement.

This was accepted by Ministers at the time.

4.2 The Programme for Government 2021-22, A fairer, greener Scotland, committed that "Alongside the highest environmental standards in our marine and rural economies, we will ensure the highest standards of animal health and welfare, including the creation of a new dedicated Scottish Veterinary Service within this Parliament, to ensure there are highly trained staff to provide Scotland with good animal health and food safety to meet all our needs across the public and private sector for animal health issues. This is not inconsistent with the recommendation above but demonstrates an evolution of the concept of an SVS to be a comprehensive operational delivery service.

4.3 This extension considers refinement of Option 3, a new bespoke SVS, to align with the manifesto commitment above.

4.4 Contributors to this extension work were broadly in agreement that Scotland would benefit from a fully integrated service which should include terrestrial and aquatic animal and public health and animal welfare. This would deliver a joined up and improved 'One health' approach. The current separation of responsibilities for farmed fish health and welfare was not considered to be helpful. Fish are not currently covered by the Veterinary Surgeons Act which was widely seen as a weakness that needed to be address when the Act was next updated.

4.5 The public health element should include meat inspection, shellfish monitoring and area closure management, and the oversight and delivery of export health certification. Consideration of the involvement of private veterinary practitioners as highlighted by the 2020 review should also be considered. Contributors thought that this would provide better coordination and efficiency as well as providing the opportunity for a much needed joined up IT system. Concern was expressed of the impact on morale with the consequential potential for staff losses and also the possibility of increased cost as functions not currently delivered are captured.

4.6 Some contributors expressed concern that the development of the SVS should not impact on the existing links between science, policy and operations. That there needs to be effective communications and IT and that care should be taken that areas that currently work well are not adversely impacted by the change. Naturally there was reluctance by some individuals to undergo change but the predominant view was that not only was this the right thing to do but the timing, in light of the significant impact of EU exit and COVID-19, was fortuitous.

4.7 The consensus was that food producing animal welfare enforcement would benefit by consolidation within the SVS, not least due to the impression that current arrangements lead to a post code lottery for enforcement. However, Local Authorities were reluctant to lose this function and concerned of the wider impact such a change might have on morale and the other animal health services that they deliver. This change would not impact on the scope of the SSPCA although clearly relationships would change.



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