The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) has invited vets to tender for the supply of taxpayer-funded veterinary services in England and Wales.

The tender – which covers seven lots – follows the agency’s announcement in July 2013 to “modernise” its relationship with suppliers of veterinary services.

This, it said, was to ensure the delivery of such services – including tuberculin testing and postmortems – was “in a way that is demonstrably more effective and efficient in meeting the needs of the taxpayer, the farmed livestock industry, other animal keepers and the veterinary profession”.

Since the announcement, rumoured proposals and an insistence from the agency it would pursue contracts that have the best value for money has caused concern among the profession, with AHVLA’s veterinary director Simon Hall forced to defend the agency’s plans at the British Cattle Veterinary Association’s annual congress last October.

Of the invitation, Mr 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, while continuing to recognise and support the partnership that exists between livestock farmers and their vets in controlling and eradicating animal disease.”

According to the agency, in developing the tender it has “sought and acted on” feedback from the veterinary profession and livestock industry and this is recognised in some of the elements of the procurement, such as:

  • Recognition that because accurate tuberculin testing is key in controlling bovine TB, the tender is to focus on the quality of service to be delivered, while ensuring best overall value-for-money for the taxpayer
  • Recognition of the importance of a strong working relationship between livestock keepers and their vet, meaning delivery partners (successful winners of the tender), 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 and this preference will be respected whenever possible.
  • An obligation on the delivery partner to work with keepers to make sure a suitable vet is available when required.
  • An obligation on the delivery partner to implement a rigorous quality assurance system, in particular, to ensure TB testing is to the required standard. The partner will also have to adhere to a health and safety policy that includes cattle handling.

The tender period runs until September 9 and the agency said it is anticipated contracts will be awarded towards the end of 2014, with suppliers beginning to deliver services from April 2015. Contracts will initially be awarded for three years, with the option to extend up to a further two years.

Tender clarification days are to be held on July 30 in Weybridge and August 7 at Builth Wells to help potential bidders clarify any aspects of the tender.

For more information, visit the AHVLA’s website.

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