18 February 2000

Tendering talks sought by BVA

THE British Veterinary Association is seeking urgent talks with MAFF to clarify the details of a pilot scheme in the north west of England designed to assess the benefits of competitive tendering of veterinary services.

The exercise will start on July 1 and cover abortion enquiries and TB and brucellosis testing.

These will all be subject to competitive tender, although details of the tender process have yet to be finalised.

Much of the routine disease surveillance work, is currently undertaken by private vets hired by MAFF- Local Veterinary Inspectors – which in 1998/9 cost the ministry £12m.

MAFF says the exercise is an attempt to improve the quality of its on-farm surveillance. But BVA president Eifion Evans said: "Although it is not possible to ascribe a motive yet, it appears that an effort to reduce costs could be behind the plans."

But he said a previous attempt to introduce tendering under the Conservative government was abandoned after it proved to be uneconomical.