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AHVLA invites tenders for TB testing and other veterinary services

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has issued an invitation-to-tender for suppliers (to be known as Delivery Partners) to supply a flexible package of taxpayer funded veterinary services on the basis of seven geographical lots covering England and Wales.

In July 2013 AHVLA announced plans to modernise its relationship with suppliers of veterinary services in order to ensure their delivery in a way which is demonstrably more effective and efficient in meeting the needs of the taxpayer, the farmed livestock industry, other animal keepers and the veterinary profession.

AHVLA’s Veterinary Director, Simon Hall, said: “The new contractually-based model will better assure the quality of tuberculin testing and other veterinary services, enhancing their value as disease control tools, whilst continuing to recognise and support the partnership that exists between livestock farmers and their vets in controlling and eradicating animal disease.”

In developing this tender AHVLA has sought, and acted on, feedback from the veterinary profession and livestock industry. This is recognised in some of the key elements of the procurement:

  • As accurate tuberculin testing is a foundation for controlling bovine TB the tender will focus on the quality of service to be delivered, whilst ensuring best overall value-for-money for the taxpayer.
  • AHVLA recognises the importance of a strong working relationship between livestock keepers and their vet. For this reason, Delivery Partners will be required to sub-contract work to local businesses provided these businesses are able to work to the required quality assurance standards and offer a competitive price. Delivery Partners will also be required to allow animal keepers to select their preferred vet from these sub-contractors; this preference will be respected whenever possible.
  • The standards of service livestock keepers can expect will be clearer than they are now. The Delivery Partner will be obliged to work with keepers to make sure that a suitable vet is available when required, and both Delivery Partners and AHVLA will monitor customer satisfaction.
  • Delivery Partners will have to implement a rigorous quality assurance system, in particular to ensure that TB testing is done to the required standard. They will also have to adhere to a health and safety policy which includes cattle handling. Vets working for Delivery Partners will therefore resist any pressure to cut corners and will expect a good standard of handling facilities, and sufficient handler support, so that the work can be done safely and efficiently.

Tender clarification days will be held on 30 July (Weybridge) and 7 August (Builth Wells) to enable potential bidders to clarify any aspects of the tender. The tender period will run until 9 September 2014. It is anticipated that contracts will be awarded towards the end of 2014, with suppliers beginning to deliver services from April 2015. Contracts will initially be awarded for a three year period, with the option to extend up to a further two years. The existing way of working will continue until the new arrangements begin.

More detail is available in the form of a Q&A published on the OV area of the AHVLA website.

Notes:

  1. Official Veterinarian (OV) is the term used to describe a veterinary surgeon authorised to perform work on behalf of an EU member state. OVs perform a range of activities, funded both privately and taxpayer funded. By value the most significant service currently delivered by OVs on behalf of AHVLA is tuberculin testing, with over £25m paid to OVs in fiscal year 2013/14. As public expenditure in this area has never been subject to fair and open competition it is not possible to demonstrate the achievement of best value-for-money for the taxpayer.
  2. Under existing arrangements AHVLA has some control over the quality of the testing but systematically assuring quality would require that the individual performance of over 3,000 OVs be monitored. It will be more efficient to require suppliers to assure quality in the first instance with AHVLA ensuring that this is done effectively. Currently few sanctions are available to tackle non-compliance against standard testing protocols.
  3. There is some evidence from checks carried out and incidents investigated to suggest that a proportion of OV testing is carried out incorrectly. Poor quality testing undermines the good work done by the majority of vets.  It may result in a failure to detect disease, jeopardising efforts to eradicate the disease and increasing cost to the taxpayer of managing disease. There has consequently been pressure from the EU’s TB Eradication Task Force to improve the quality of TB testing in Great Britain.
  4. This change will be supported by a new approach for training and authorising individual vets to act as OVs. For further information see: http://ahvla.defra.gov.uk/official-vets/training-and-authorisation/index.htm.
  5. The Invitation-To-Tender can be accessed on Defra’s e-tendering system, Bravo, at: https://defra.bravosolution.co.uk/web/login.shtml.

Page published: 11 July 2014