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Veterinary Laboratory Service: Redundancy

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 12th December 2011.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what impact assessment her Department has conducted on (a) the loss of 81 members of staff in the rationalisation of the Veterinary Laboratory Service and (b) what impact the loss of 81 staff members will have on the level of service provided by the Veterinary Laboratory Agency; and if she will place (i) the impact assessment and (ii) the academic model on which the proposed rationalisation is based in the Library.

Photo of James Paice James Paice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

In April 2011 the AHVLA executive team initiated a review of the delivery of laboratory services across England and Wales. This work followed the earlier AHVLA sustainable surveillance project which recommended that the post mortem examination of carcases, which makes up the most critical aspect of surveillance work, be de-coupled from the provision of laboratory service functions, removing the requirement for co-location of the two work areas.

No formal impact assessment is required for changes such as these. Under the current Better Regulation Guidance it states that if there is no impact on regulation and there is no increased cost to the end user then no impact assessment is required. The decision on which laboratories would retain laboratory services was based on a number of factors including future needs for specialist skills, staff capacity to deliver the volumes of work, facilities required, and retaining resilience of service delivery.

The basis for the new delivery model is not an academic study; it is our experience of the model used successfully at the University Veterinary Schools surveillance centres at both Liverpool and London. At these sites the university staff accept carcase material and then forward samples onto the relevant AHVLA regional laboratory as no testing is carried out at the veterinary schools.

The onward submission of tests to other laboratory sites is also common practice at all post mortem sites, so this is an extension of existing practice.

The ability to respond to disease outbreak with a surge in capacity is maintained as confirmatory tests for notifiable diseases are carried out by Weybridge which is not part of the regional laboratory network. AHVLA is confident that service levels will not be reduced with the proposed changes.

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