SRUC to streamline vet disease surveillance programme

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is proposing to reduce its network of Veterinary Disease Surveillance Centres (DSCs) that it runs across Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. It is currently consulting with users and stakeholders over the changes.

Operated by SRUC’s SAC Consulting Veterinary Services division, the DSCs are located at Aberdeen, Ayr, Dumfries, Edinburgh, Inverness, Perth, St Boswells and Thurso.  The future of the Ayr and Inverness centres is under review, while the Aberdeen and Edinburgh operations may be relocated to new premises near their current locations.

The proposals follow the 2011 Kinnaird Review of Veterinary Surveillance, and are intended to ensure that SRUC maintains an “efficient, sustainable and robust disease surveillance service for Scotland and the UK”.

One option is to close the Inverness DSC in autumn 2015, with this region being served from the Thurso, Aberdeenshire and Perth DSCs.  At Ayr, the proposals envisage stronger teaching links with the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine. It is yet to be decided whether the Ayr DSC should continue to operate on its present site at Auchincruive; or either relocate to another location in the area, or to the Veterinary Campus of the University of Glasgow. Routine laboratory testing work could transfer from Ayr to the Dumfries DSC.

The Kinnaird Review recommendation that a central diagnostic laboratory should be developed on the Easter Bush estate in Midlothian, closely aligned with the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is already in progress.  Due to open in 2017, the new laboratory will also house a new Edinburgh DSC. At the same time, the Aberdeen DSC will relocate to a modern building at nearby Thainstone, home of the ANM Group of farmer-owned agricultural businesses.

 “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,” says Janet Swadling, acting chief executive of SRU. “We are consulting closely with our staff and with external clients and stakeholders to ensure we get this right.”

An NFU Scotland spokesman comments: “Whatever changes are being considered, the service available to farmers must not be diminished.  They must continue to have access to timely post-mortem and disease testing facilities and effective disease surveillance across Scotland must be preserved.

“We would not wish to see veterinary surveillance facilities close but were that to happen, utilising large animal vets to underpin the service merits further discussion as it would support both local large animal practices and provide a local service.”

• The veterinary surveillance operation in England and Wales was recently streamlined from 14 to six centres, with contractors replacing some services.