Publication - Independent report

Field delivery of animal health services in Scotland: review

Published: 12 Feb 2020

Review examining the strengths and weaknesses of the field delivery of animal health and welfare services in Scotland.

46 page PDF

515.5 kB

46 page PDF

515.5 kB

Field delivery of animal health services in Scotland: review
Section 1 – Current arrangements for the delivery of Animal Health and Welfare policy and operational delivery in Scotland

46 page PDF

515.5 kB

Section 1 – Current arrangements for the delivery of Animal Health and Welfare policy and operational delivery in Scotland

5 The evolution of animal health and welfare policy and delivery in GB and Scotland

5.1 The origins of state veterinary medicine in GB can be traced back to the formation of the Veterinary Department of the Privy Council in 1865. This occurred in response to incursions of cattle plague (Rinderpest) in the previous few years which had caused high mortality in cattle across the country with associated economic losses. The Veterinary Department was responsible for national animal health concerns principally the control of exotic epidemic disease. The Veterinary Department became the Diseases of Animals Branch of the new Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 1920.

5.2 Enforcement of animal health legislation was, and generally remains, the responsibility of Local Authorities, however, in 1938 the veterinary services of Local Authorities were transferred to the Ministry with the aim that 'the attack on animal diseases should be conducted on a national scale by a centrally organised staff'. There was some argument at the time for a separate Scottish veterinary service which, although unsuccessful, did result in the requirement that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be consulted on all matters affecting the control of animal disease in Scotland.

5.3 Following the Report of the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs in 1954, which advised that the Secretary of State for Scotland should assume the responsibilities for animal health in Scotland, with the exception of epidemic diseases, these functions were transferred in 1955 through the Transfer of Functions (Animal Health) Order 1955. Devolution in 2000 transferred all policy and legislative responsibilities for animal health and welfare with a small number of exemptions, including international trade and veterinary medicines, to the Scottish Parliament. This is widely regarded as having been beneficial for the Scottish livestock industries.

5.4 On 1 April 2005 the State Veterinary Service became an Executive Agency of Defra delivering animal health and welfare services across GB. In 2011 the Animal Health Agency, as it had become, became part of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) which in turn transitioned to the Animal and Plant Agency in 2014. APHA is the current organisation providing animal health and welfare services across GB.

6 Animal Health and welfare policy in Scotland

6.1 The purpose of Scottish Government is to 'focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth'. Livestock farming contributes to the delivery of this purpose through the development of thriving businesses, including in the more remote parts of Scotland, which are sustainable and globally competitive, and which contribute to the health of the nation as well as protecting Scotland's iconic environment. 85% of Scotland is designated as Less Favoured Area. Due to the poor quality of land in these areas farming options are limited and extensive livestock farming is an important element of the local economy providing employment and a range of public benefits.

6.2 The Scottish Government's Animal Health and Welfare Strategy 2016 – 2021 outlines how it intends to build on the strengths of the Scottish industry to deliver national outcomes. It recognises the importance of the livestock industry to Scotland both as an employer, supporting 35,000 jobs, and in terms of its £1.6 billion contribution to the economy. There is also recognition of the contribution that this industry makes to Scotland's aspirations to be a 'Good Food Nation' and its stewardship responsibilities in the maintenance of Scotland's world-famous landscapes.

6.3 The strategy is built on the foundations of strong partnership working, a skilled and flexible workforce and is underpinned by a vibrant long-established land-based science sector.

6.4 Scotland has a reputation for high standards of animal health and welfare. It has a long history of implementing and administering robust assurance schemes with rigorous audit and enforcement to underpin standards. In recognition of the challenges facing Scottish producers and the importance of accessing premium markets there has been a longstanding focus on quality as exemplified by the recognition through the Protected Geographical Indicator (PGI) status of Scotch Beef and Lamb as well as the Specially Selected Pork brand. However, in an increasingly competitive global market there is recognition that we need to use what has been achieved to date as a springboard for continued improvement.

6.5 Scotland has unique challenges including its geography, climate, industry and animal health and welfare status. Implementing the strategy will need to take account of these challenges as well as requiring collaborative working between the livestock and associated industries, government and a range of delivery partners and interests in order to deliver the desired outcomes.

6.6 The strategy acknowledges that livestock farming has an important role to play in managing its contributions to the emissions impacting on climate change through improving the biological efficiency of production. This can be achieved in part through improvements in animal health including better management and control of endemic disease. Scotland has already achieved progress in controlling several significant endemic diseases. It currently enjoys official freedom from bovine tuberculosis and is working with the livestock industry to control, and possibly eradicate, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea and to control Sheep Scab. SG aims to work with industry to build on these successes to continue to reduce the impact of endemic disease.

6.7 The Strategy outlines SG's priority for the delivery of its animal health and welfare services which is to retain a system that can not only deliver the required services in normal conditions but is also able to respond quickly and effectively to an incursion of epidemic animal disease.

7 Current arrangements for the delivery of animal health and welfare government operational services in Scotland

7.1 There is a complex delivery landscape for terrestrial and aquatic animal health and welfare services in Scotland. The livestock industry has a fundamental role in managing the health and welfare of the animals that they produce. In addition, government is responsible for policy, legislation and enforcement of animal health and welfare. Government's responsibilities fall mainly into four areas:

  • the control of epidemic animal diseases e.g. Foot and Mouth disease;
  • veterinary public health including the control of zoonotic disease, meat hygiene, feed safety, residues and antimicrobial resistance;
  • facilitation of domestic and export trade; and
  • animal welfare.

7.2 Whilst APHA deliver a significant proportion of this work several other organisations including Local Authorities, Police Scotland, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Marine Scotland, SG Rural Payments and Inspections Division, Scottish SPCA and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have regulatory roles and provide varying levels of input to Scottish animal health and welfare services.

7.3 APHA is an executive agency of Defra which also delivers services in the devolved administrations funded by Scottish and Welsh Ministers. The agency has a wide range of functions including the delivery of animal, bee and plant health services, animal welfare, surveillance and diagnostics through the veterinary investigation centres (VICs) in England and Wales, the Lasswade and Weybridge laboratories and a significant research program. However, in Scotland APHA's functions are limited to animal health and welfare operations although these are supported by the diagnostics and research provided by Lasswade and Weybridge. The VIC services in Scotland are provided by the SRUC laboratories assisted by the Moredun Research Institute.

7.4 APHA has a wide and diverse range of responsibilities in Scotland, exemplified by the considerable body of legislation under which it has powers and for which it has enforcement responsibilities. The functions delivered are described in the APHA Annual Report 2018/19 and include:

  • Maintaining and developing the operational infrastructure for dealing with notifiable disease.
  • Surveillance and response to keep Scotland free of bovine TB.
  • Helping to open export markets and supporting ongoing exports of Scottish animals, fish and products.
  • Support for the Scottish livestock industry's initiatives to tackle endemic disease.
  • Monitoring and controlling animal disease threats to public health.
  • Access to APHA's bee inspection database (BeeBase).

7.5 Leadership and management within APHA was raised consistently during the review process. Visibility of senior leaders was perceived to be low. Matrix management has resulted in lack of clarity in the chain of command and the locating of administrative teams on several sites has resulted in reduced contact and oversight by managers. Integration between disciplines was poor with administrative staff being discouraged from communicating with the technical and veterinary staff. The support provided by Veterinary Leaders is, however, valued and highly regarded by staff.

7.6 The reliance on employing managers from non-animal health and welfare backgrounds is perceived as reducing understanding of the business and this is exacerbated by the rapid turnover of staff in these roles. Effective succession planning would assist in addressing this concern.

7.7 Management within APHA was described as rigid and prescriptive resulting in staff feeling disempowered. Work was characterised as being driven by the need to deliver key performance indicators rather than being outcome focussed.

8 Current cost of operational delivery by APHA

8.1 In 2019/20 the cost to Scottish Government for the delivery of APHA operations in Scotland is £12.7 million. This includes £5.9m for field delivery, £5.626m for central and core functions and £1.153m for surveillance.

8.2 Field costs include the pay and non-pay costs of Scottish field staff, travel and subsistence, consumables and OV costs. The activities covered include animal by products, animal identification, exotic disease control, reportable diseases and zoonoses, tuberculosis, TSE and animal welfare.

8.3 Central costs relate to the administrative and office-based support provided through the centralised service centres. These costs are provided on a GB basis and are apportioned through an agreed formula, using livestock numbers in each administration as the denominator, as documented in the Concordat. Scotland's share of these costs is 15.9%.

8.4 Core costs include corporate office costs, Information Technology (IT), Health and safety (H&S), business change and contracts. Only the animal health and welfare core costs are charged to Scotland again on the pre-agreed share basis of 15.9% and in 2018/19 amounted to £1.1m. This element also includes Defra notional costs which cover estates, IT, HR communications, finance, legal and commercial which in 2018/19 amounted to £3.4m. SG has benefited in the work undertaken by APHA to streamline and drive efficiencies in these costs which has had the effect of reducing the SG contribution.

8.5 Frustration has been experienced at the lack of financial management within APHA particularly in the forecasting of underspends which limits the ability of SG to plan alternative work before the end of the financial year.

8.6 Some budgets have been retained on a GB basis, mainly in the science and laboratory services area. These budgets funds work in several areas including:

Enhanced Surveillance for emerging disease;
Exotic Diseases;
Animal Welfare;
TSE Surveillance; and
Parts of the tuberculosis program.

8.7 It has not been possible to obtain the proportion of these budgets that have been nominally allocated to Scotland which prevents an assessment of value for money.

9 Staff resources

9.1 Annex 3 contains an organogram of the current APHA structure in Scotland. The current numbers of APHA field posts in Scotland are 37 veterinary staff and 25 Animal Health Officers. This is a significant reduction in numbers from 2005, when the State Veterinary Service became an agency, when there were some 50 veterinary staff and 29 AHOs employed in Scotland.

9.2 Administrative staff numbers have also reduced from 68 in 2005 to 53 employed in 2019. Due to the centralisation of several functions that involve predominantly administrative input it is less transparent how this change has impacted on the effectiveness of delivery.

9.3 However, the reduced complement of staff allied to the loss of expertise and experience undermines confidence that Scotland would be able to mount an effective response to a significant disease event.