Scotland’s Rural College has announced proposals for changes to the network of Veterinary Disease Surveillance Centres (DSCs) it runs in Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.
The DSCs are operated by SRUC’s SAC Consulting Veterinary Services. SRUC has begun consultation with stakeholders on what could be significant changes to service delivery at the Inverness and Ayr DSCs. Meanwhile the centres at Thurso, Perth, St Boswells, Dumfries, Aberdeen and Edinburgh will continue as usual, although there are plans to relocate the Aberdeen and Edinburgh operations to new premises near their current locations.
The plans are announced in the wake of the Kinnaird Review of Veterinary Surveillance published in 2011 and after consultation with the Strategic Management Board* subsequently appointed by Ministers. The proposed developments are intended to ensure that SRUC maintains an efficient, sustainable and robust disease surveillance service for Scotland and the UK.
SRUC plans firstly to consult on the future of disease surveillance in Inverness and the surrounding region. One option would be that the Inverness DSC could close in the autumn of 2015, with this region thereafter being served from the Thurso, Aberdeenshire and Perth DSCs.
As SRUC explores this, it will begin consultation with key stakeholders on options to improve the delivery of services to vets and farmers in the north of Scotland. This could include training and supporting veterinary practitioners to carry out post mortem examinations on farm or at some other convenient location and transporting some carcases to the new facility in Aberdeenshire or the existing DSCs in Perth and Thurso.
At Ayr it is proposed that teaching links with the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine should be strengthened. The consultation will focus on whether the DSC continues to operate on its present site at Auchincruive, from another location in the area, or relocates to the Veterinary Campus of the University of Glasgow. Routine laboratory testing work could transfer from Ayr to the Dumfries DSC.
Once decisions have been made, SRUC will be consulting on a number of options with those staff who may be directly affected. The options are to relocate to another SACCVS site; to redeploy within SRUC; and/or to retrain. Where these options are not viable, SRUC will assist staff in finding new employment.
In line with the Kinnaird Review’s recommendations, a central diagnostic laboratory will be developed on the Easter Bush estate in Midlothian, closely aligned with the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Due to open in 2017, the new laboratory will also house a new Edinburgh DSC.
The Aberdeen DSC will be relocated to a modern building at nearby Thainstone, close to Inverurie or another site in Aberdeenshire in 2017 from where it will be business as usual. Many may find the new facility more convenient than the existing one which, due to the expansion of the city, is now located within the suburbs of Aberdeen.
Janet Swadling, Acting Chief Executive of SRUC said: “Against a budget that is reducing in real terms we have prepared a plan to provide a more efficient service which is fit for the future, considers local demands and the need to retain a critical mass of important expertise. We are consulting closely with our staff and with external clients and stakeholders to ensure we get this right and we are grateful for their ongoing commitment and understanding.
“The quality of Scotland’s contribution to veterinary surveillance, its investigations of disease outbreaks and alerts about new threats is valued in the UK and beyond. Our staff are highly trained and their expertise is respected by our clients and government agencies. As any agreed changes are implemented we will continue to deliver the service to this high standard, with minimal disruption to stakeholders.”
In a recent restructuring of veterinary surveillance in England and Wales the number of centres was reduced from 14 to six with contractors replacing some services. SRUC believes its proposals to potentially close only one centre while working with partners including the universities, SRUC researchers, the Moredun Research institute and vets, will provide a uniquely Scottish solution to the problem of tighter budgets and increased disease threat.
The consultation period will run for six weeks until 10 July 2015, after which time SRUC will submit a report to the Strategic Management Board (SMB). SRUC will then liaise with the Scottish Government to finalise plans, and start employee consultation.
Those wishing to comment on the proposals are invited to contact Brian Hosie, Head of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0131 535 3139.