3 April 2001
Emergency hotline left unmanned
by FWi staff
MINISTRY of Agriculture officials left an emergency foot-and-mouth hotline unmanned despite encouraging farmers to report suspected cases of the disease.
The telephone hotline, for producers in north-west England, was left with just a recorded answer-phone message after staff finished work on Monday (2 April).
Lancashire dairy producer Sue Wrennall telephoned the hotline at 8pm the same day after discovering a cow with suspected foot-and-mouth on her farm.
The recorded message asked Mrs Wrennall to leave her telephone number and informed her that her call would be returned as soon as possible.
She said: I couldnt believe it. I had to telephone the number twice and let my husband listen because I couldnt believe it was an answer-phone.
A Ministry of Agriculture spokeswoman said the hotline had suffered glitches while it was being extended to cope with more calls from worried farmers.
The problem arose as part of the extension of our service, she said.
We had some teething problems and we are now using an out-sourced service which should be available 24-hours a day from Wednesday (4 April).
The spokeswoman said producers with suspected cases of foot-and-mouth should continue to call the north-west emergency number on (01228) 591 999.
Meanwhile, an emergency hotline to take calls on foot-and-mouth disease in north-east England is now up and running in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It is hoped that the Newcastle Disease Control Centre will speed up the service to farmers who suspect their livestock have the disease.
The telephone number for the Newcastle centre is (0191) 2145011.