UK Governments must work with the profession to modernise disease surveillance networks, say leading vets

After a year of evidence gathering and analysis the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has set out its comprehensive vision for animal health and disease monitoring in the UK and is calling on UK Governments to modernise and enhance the current surveillance networks.

BVA’s position on veterinary scanning surveillance explores how the UK Governments, the veterinary profession and other key stakeholders can work collaboratively to enhance the UK’s disease surveillance networks. To develop the paper, the BVA surveillance working group collected evidence from animal health and disease monitoring experts across species areas and surveyed 655 vets to explore how the profession values and engages with surveillance.

John Fishwick, President, British Veterinary Association, said: “Until now, BVA has always championed a robust surveillance network, but we’ve never set out our vision for how surveillance in the UK should look. Our position paper aims to do just that, recognising the value that all members of the veterinary profession add by contributing to animal health and disease monitoring in all its forms, be that production animal, equine, wildlife or companion animal.

“We also call on the UK Governments to work collaboratively with the profession to modernise and enhance the UK’s disease surveillance networks across all species. This is not just about protecting the resources currently spent on the existing system, it is about thinking innovatively about potential new approaches to disease surveillance. This means ensuring we are using all the available data and evidence to protect both large and small animals in the UK from new, emerging and endemic disease.”

In recent years BVA has repeatedly voiced members’ opposition to any further reduction in the surveillance network in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The new position expands on this by suggesting new opportunities to modernise and optimise the existing surveillance network through:

  • Maintaining the current level of Government resource spent on the scanning surveillance networks
  • Adopting new approaches to data collection and feedback
  • Optimising appropriate skills and expertise 
  • Rethinking traditional approaches to funding and coordination
  • Articulating the value of surveillance reporting to the veterinary profession and other stakeholders through education to increase awareness and participation
  • Working collaboratively with stakeholders to explore innovative communication strategies

Chair of the BVA surveillance working group, Kate Sharpe, said: “The profession’s commitment to the role of the veterinary surgeon as a public guardian across all species enables the continual monitoring for endemic disease and by recognising the unusual, helps to identify new and emerging threats that need further investigation. Government veterinary surgeons play an invaluable role providing a holistic service to private veterinary surgeons and practices and escalating any arising concerns through the appropriate channels to ensure action is taken.

“But the success of our surveillance networks relies on people and relationships within them, as well as a sound knowledge of when, what, how and who to report to. With this in mind, the BVA position paper aims to identify areas in current Government surveillance networks that could be improved, and how vets can derive increased value by contributing to animal health and disease monitoring activities and using the reports generated.”

As a first step BVA is looking to optimise its own communications on surveillance, updating the website and contacting every member with advice on how they can ‘kickstart’ their own engagement with existing networks. 

The new surveillance position was drafted by the BVA Surveillance Working Group including representation from British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA), Association of Government Vets (AGV), Pig Veterinary Society(PVS), Goat Veterinary Association (GVS) Sheep Veterinary Society(SVS), British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA), and the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA). The supporting research was jointly developed and promoted across the divisions in the Summer of 2017.

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