Submitted by Inventive on Fri, 01/01/2016 - 12:06

We can confirm that Market Vets are still providing Pre Movement Testing & Private testing where required.Please telephone 01769 572176 for any future appointments

TB Testing Update

It is now common knowledge that the contract for TB testing nationally has been awarded to XL-Farmcare Ltd.

Under the terms of the new contract practice income from TB testing would fall by 36% (>£40,000) per annum and this is on top of a 16% reduction in real terms resulting from price freeze on fees introduced by the government in 2009. I have looked at the figures in great detail and unfortunately concluded that the income generated from testing under the new arrangements would be insufficient to cover the associated operating costs. I believe XL-Farmcare Ltd are fully aware of the implications of their pricing proposals, a XL director stating that ‘it is not unusual for businesses to have to subsidise parts of their operations’ at their launch meeting in Launceston on the 4 March 2015.

Subsidise from where? I disagree that small rural businesses like MVC should be asked to ‘subsidise’ the UK Government in a national disease eradication program but there is also the question of scale. We unfortunately live in one the TB epicentres of the UK and over 1/3rd of our large animal vets are tied up at any one time with TB work. To subsidise this work from the remaining 2/3rd of the business would place a huge financial burden on the remainder of the practice.

I have therefore taken the decision not to sign the XL Farmcare contract and therefore MVC will not be providing statutory TB testing under the present system. We will continue to provide pre-movement and private testing.

I have not taken this decision lightly and realise and regret the inconvenience this may cause to our farming clients. However I am also responsible for the more than 30 people who work for Market Vets and rely on their jobs to support their families. The only way to secure their futures, and the future of MVC which has provided veterinary services in the area for over 70 years, is I believe, through sound financial stewardship of the company. Signing the XL contract now would involve paying an initial £3,000 fee for the right to continue undertaking TB work followed, year on year, by a further £12,000 in ‘commission’ to pay for policing the new testing arrangements. I believe the contracts to be unsustainable in their present form and have therefore decided to step away until the future becomes clearer.

So why have some practices signed up? XL Farmcare are charging each participating practice a £3000 registration fee and demanding a £0.30 per head commission on each animal tested (MVC tested 40,000 head of cattle last year - 40,000 x £0.30 = £12,000) – multiply this across the country and XL Practices are likely to do very well! Other practices have already started talking about charging top up fees (which is forbidden in the XL contract) and many have taken the attitude that they will do it for 12 months and ‘see how it goes’. Other practices have talked about ‘efficiency’ savings which may mean importing cheaper foreign labour (XL Farmcare are currently advertising nationally for TB testers).

What will this mean for you? As I understand things, clients of practices that have not signed the XL contract will be contacted by XL Farmcare and offered a number of local service providers from which they can choose to do their test. XL Farmcare are contractually obliged to DEFRA to ensure that tests are completed on time so there should be no risk that tests will not be completed within the required window.

I genuinely regret having to withdraw from providing TB testing services but genuinely believe the current arrangements to be unsustainable. I predict that the picture in 12 months time will be very different than today and hope to resume providing this service as soon as possible.

Alan Jaques