Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
I am pleased to highlight a series of improvements to the infrastructure supporting the veterinary profession in Wales which will significantly strengthen and enhance the important contribution the veterinary profession makes within our rural economy and in protecting the health and welfare of animals in Wales.
From 1 April, all bovine TB testing and other Official Veterinarian (OV) work in Wales will be allocated to two regional delivery partners: Menter a Busnes (in North Wales) and Iechyd Da (Gwledig) Ltd (in South Wales). They will be responsible for assigning vets and ensuring that the work is carried out to the required standard. The new arrangements are designed to provide higher levels of assurance for the quality of testing and value for money. The testing will be performed by locally-based private vets who under the new arrangements will continue to be an important contributor in managing animal disease and in delivering key programmes such as Cymorth TB as part of our wider TB eradication programme. Funded by Welsh Government, TB Gamma Interferon testing is being introduced into the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Veterinary Investigation Centre in Carmarthen. There are important benefits to be gained to the TB eradication programme from this service being available in Wales. In addition, this development creates three new jobs. In the longer-term, we will be working with APHA to further expand the range of laboratory testing conducted at this facility.
We are also working with APHA on developing a Centre of Veterinary Expertise for Extensive Livestock Production, to be based at the Carmarthen facility. Extensive farming is an important element of agriculture in Wales. A centre of veterinary expertise based in Wales therefore has considerable potential in terms of enhancing the health, welfare and profitability of animals farmed in this way.
A key feature of the surveillance system required to protect animals from disease is ready access to a post mortem examination (PME) service. Such access in Wales has been eroded and I am therefore very pleased that the availability of this service will shortly be restored across Wales. For those within an hour's journey time of Carmarthen the service will continue to be provided by APHA. For those within an hour of Aberystwyth the service will be provided by Iechyd Da (Gwledig) Ltd in collaboration with Aberystwyth University and Welsh Lamb and Beef Producers. In addition to the creation of three jobs, with the potential for more, this service is an important first step towards their wider vision for a Veterinary Science Centre at Aberystwyth. A carcass collection service will be introduced in the remaining areas of Wales, following consultation with local vets.
Alongside these important changes occurring on the ground in Wales, I have asked officials to explore the Government’s delivery options for future animal health and welfare field services. I want to ensure that services continue to evolve, be fit for purpose and remain aligned with our priorities and strategic vision. Our future veterinary services must work effectively and in partnership between government and the private sector. It is also essential that there is the capability to detect and deal with any future exotic animal disease outbreak.
Livestock farming is at the heart of many rural communities and significantly supports local businesses in sectors such as tourism and recreation. By supporting and enhancing the services that support the veterinary profession in this way we are helping farmers adapt and develop for the future, strengthening our rural communities and raising the standards of animal health and welfare in Wales.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.