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Animal Health And VLA Merge

30 June 2010

UK - Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has announced that the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) is to merge with the executive agency, Animal Health.

The Animal Health Agency and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, are the two principal Defra executive agencies which work to combat animal diseases.

Ms Spelman said that the merge will allow us to bring together services, expertise and scientific capability on animal health.

"It will improve our resilience in delivering important services, including our animal disease emergency response capability and science requirements for animal health.

"In resource-constrained times, the merger will enable the agencies to create more efficient ways of working, reduce the cost and bureaucracy needed to manage the interfaces between these agencies, Defra and the devolved administrations, and their customers."

Ms Spelman said that the merger of the executive agencies would go ahead shortly, with as little disruption to staff and customers as possible.

A single Chief Executive will be appointed for the new agency this summer, and will be tasked with working out how to achieve the full integration of the agencies, including structures and ways of working, by the autumn.

In the meantime, both agencies will continue to be led by their chief executives and senior teams. In implementing this changes, the Department will work closely with the Responsibility and Cost Sharing Advisory Group, as well as devolved administrations and other stakeholders.

This announcement has been welcomed cautiously by the British Veterinary Authority.

Commenting, Professor Bill Reilly, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: "On the face of it there could be significant benefits in merging these two key animal health organisations. Already, at local and national levels, the two agencies are required to work closely and if done properly we could have one body that is completely committed to animal health.

"However, every veterinary surgeon will want reassurance that the merger will not simply become another way to cut costs by reducing the number of people working on disease surveillance and research. It is vital that both organisations continue to deliver under the new body.

"The merger could have an impact on responsibility and cost sharing plans, the tendering exercise for Official Veterinarian (OV) work, and the future of animal health delivery in the devolved administrations. The BVA is therefore calling for a wide consultation on how the merged organisation will work to ensure the best for the veterinary profession, farming community and all other interested organisations."

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