Representation and Education

TB testing stands & farm vets included as key workers 

The Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) has published a briefing note to inform Official Veterinarians (OVs) of procedures to follow if they are unable to complete statutory TB testing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   

View the full guidance note. https://bit.ly/2xVPfcM  

 

In summary  

The advice indicates that whilst we can reasonably expect some disruption, it is nonetheless important to ensure a consistent approach to the prioritisation of TB testing in order “to mitigate the risk of potential spread of disease and minimise disruption to the delivery of the statutory UK TB testing policy.”   

Essentially, the current position is that TB testing remains unchanged, which BCVA broadly welcomes; staying on top of the disease is clearly important, for as long as it remains safe to do so and the impact of the cessation of testing during the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak is still seen now.   

APHA has indicated that it will expect testing to be carried out by the Veterinary Delivery Partner (VDP) and subcontracted practices. It has acknowledged that smaller practices could feel the impact of staffing issues, and there is an expectation that local practices will work together to deliver the testing, to prevent farmers going under restrictions.   

Adjustments, along with the need for prioritisation of particular test types will be kept under regular review. Initially looking at local and regional issues before a more blanket approach may be necessary.   

APHA will also look at individual situations where testing can’t be carried out because of reduced farm or veterinary staff due to COVID-19, in which case they will introduce their established protocol for “exceptional circumstances.”   

 

What happens if testing isn’t possible?   

  • Farms that claim they are unable to test because of self-isolation need to notify APHA directly, as well as informing their provider.  
  • If APHA becomes aware through VDP or OVs that practices aren’t keeping up with tests, then they will reallocate to practices that can complete the tests and or   
  • If needed, contiguous testing and the roll-out of 6 monthly testing in a High Risk Area (HRA) would be put on-hold. In more extreme circumstances VDP and OVs would ask APHA to take further measures.  
  • Farms will be placed under movement restrictions until the test can be carried out – so worth members reiterating this to clients to get tests booked in as early in their window so if tests have to be postponed, they can still be completed within the testing window.    

  

BCVA view  

BCVA Board has been monitoring all the information coming out on a daily basis; clearly this is uncharted territory for us all and it’s important to react thoughtfully, following the evidence where it is available, with consideration for the views of all our colleagues.   

The initial response to the APHA note is to welcome continuity in TB testing. “We all know that this surveillance testing is vital, as Tuberculosis is a notifiable and zoonotic disease” said President Nikki Hopkins. “So, it is good news that there is no current plan to cancel statutory requirements for TB testing; as long as our health, and the health of our farmers is not unnecessarily compromised, and as long as we maintain appropriate staffing levels and follow latest available advice for social distancing and biosecurity.”   

 

Key worker status  

BCVA also welcomes the inclusion of farm vets on the key workers list. We are hoping to work with colleagues to gain a clearer understanding in terms of what aspects of our work is considered appropriate under this status category. We offer further details as they emerge, so please keep an eye on your emails and the website or follow us on social media platforms. We are working hard to keep our members informed and safe. For now, it is important to recognise that the government sees our role as vital in ensuring a safe and reliable food supply, whilst maintaining animal welfare.  


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