Bovine TB test©Tim Scrivener

Vets in Devon and Cornwall will be given extra time to decide whether they want to sign up to new TB testing contracts after a lower than expected uptake.

Until now, on-farm TB testing has been carried out by vets working for private businesses, who were trained, appointed and paid by Defra to carry out the work.

But from 1 May this year, Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will manage TB testing in England and Wales through seven regional suppliers, which successfully tendered for the contracts.

The APHA awarded TB testing contracts to five delivery partners in England in February.

See also: Government agency to shake up delivery of TB testing

Large numbers of veterinary practices in four of the five English regions – the South East, the Midlands, the North and part of the South West – have signed new contracts.

Delivery partner XL Farmcare vet consortiums issued contracts to potential subcontractors (veterinary practices) earlier this month. The deadline for signing contracts was 24 April, with a start date of 1 May.

But the uptake in the fifth region – Devon and Cornwall – has been lower than elsewhere.

Therefore, the APHA has decided to extend the deadline for vets in Devon and Cornwall to 14 May.

In a letter to the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), Simon Hall, veterinary director at the APHA, stated that “large numbers of practices have already signed subcontracts in four of the five regions.

“Across England as a whole, almost 200 practices have already signed subcontracts, with others expected do so very soon.”

BVA president John Blackwell welcomed the APHA’s decision to extend the sign-up deadline in Devon and Cornwall.

He said: “The large numbers of veterinary practices signing up to the new contracts for TB testing across four of the five English regions demonstrates that the veterinary profession has prioritised delivery of TB testing for the public good, and will ensure that the fight against TB continues without delay. 

“While issues with the draft contracts in Devon and Cornwall, coupled with a very tight deadline, have resulted in a smaller number of subcontractors signing up there, the extension to 14 May is welcome and will give veterinary practices more time to seek further clarification and legal advice if necessary.”

Mr Blackwell added: “The control of TB is most effectively delivered through nurturing strong collaboration and working relationships within the profession.

“The strong engagement of the veterinary profession with the new TB testing arrangements shows yet again that veterinary surgeons put their professional duties first.”