A legal challenge to the selection process for TB testing delivery partners made by one of the bidders to Defra and its responsible agency has been withdrawn.
According to Xperior Farm Health, it initiated legal proceedings after Defra dismissed a query it made after learning of the decision to allocate all five delivery partner contracts in England to members of the same veterinary group last month.
Xperior said the legal challenge was to address its two main concerns with the selection process: a lack of competition between delivery partners covering England, and acceptance of “unfeasibility low bids.”
In response to the legal challenge, Xperior said Defra set an “aggressive timetable” for it to build a case to support the claims, and as a result it was forced to withdraw the action with immediate effect.
Veterinary director Phil Elkins said: “We are concerned proposed payment rates for TB testing are considerably lower than those proposed by other bidders, and at a level that questions the viability of practices continuing to provide TB testing services to their clients.
“The consequence would be either unfairly low payment rates for official veterinarians (OVs) who conduct TB testing, or an influx of inexperienced vets, potentially from other countries, into low-paid positions.
“The loss of TB testing income would also challenge the viability of some rural veterinary businesses and the relationships held with their clients.
“Either way, this is contrary to a key tenet in the pre-tender documentation that delivery partners are expected to maintain a flow of TB testing work and revenue to contribute to the capability of the veterinary profession in rural areas to support food security and the rural economy.”
An announcement on the award of the contracts for the five English lots is expected soon, after the Animal and Plant Health Agency previously said it was unable to award the contracts until the legal challenge was addressed.