Tender process launched to identify suppliers of equine disease surveillance services to the racing industry

04 Sep 2020 BHA Features Welfare

The racing industry has today launched an invitation to tender process (ITT) in order to identify suppliers who will be able to take over certain equine disease support services for the racing industry, following the recent closure of the Animal Health Trust (AHT).

The AHT was responsible for delivering the four pillars of equine disease support: disease surveillance across the National Herd, diagnostic testing, disease research and provision of expertise to the veterinary pharmaceutical industry.

Following the closure of AHT in July, members of its senior personnel (Richard Newton – Director of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance,  and Maire O’Brien – Administrator) have been transferred to the payroll of the BHA on behalf of the industry in order to continue providing essential disease surveillance services. This has been funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB), with substantial contributions from racehorse owners and the TBA, through their existing allocation of funds for disease control.

The invitation to tender process is now intended to identify the suppliers for a long-term, cost-effective solution for the racing and non-TB horse industry to provide the more specialist tests as set out in the ITT document, while also working closely with the central disease surveillance team.

Details of the ITT process can be found here, which is now open and will close on 5 October 2020.

It is anticipated that this process will identify, from the commercial and research laboratories in the UK, one or more service providers, in succession of the AHT contract, who are capable of providing the services to a high standard and in a cost-effective manner.

Funding this work will continue to be provided by the HBLB, racehorse owners and the TBA. alongside the Racing Foundation’s significant contribution in this area.

Stephen Atkin, former CEO of the Racecourse Association, has been leading this project on behalf of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and the racing industry.

He said:

“The service provided by Richard Newton and his team at the AHT was vital for the safeguarding of the racing industry from infectious disease. We were all sad to see the closure of the AHT.

“Never was this more visible than in the exceptional work carried out during the 2019 equine influenza outbreak, when the AHT – supported by the BHA and racing industry – carried out an unprecedented volume of tests to help track and trace the disease and get racing up and running again in a matter of days.

“I am delighted that we have been able to retain the services of Richard and his central team. Since the AHT’s closure on 31 July, the team has continued to liaise with equine veterinary practices, working on behalf of their clients in the industry, to ensure that the vital central surveillance of assays carried out by laboratories in the UK continues in a satisfactory manner.

“In the meantime, discussions led primarily by the HBLB and Racing Foundation remain ongoing with the specialists involved and a range of research laboratories for the continuation of important disease research.”