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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fish-health-inspectorate-service-charter/fish-health-inspectorate-service-charter
1. What is a service charter?
The purpose of a service charter is to improve access to an organisation’s services and promote quality.
It does this by telling you, the customer, how to contact us, the standards of service you should expect and what to do if something goes wrong. It is also written in a clear and easily understandable way.
This document helps us too, by setting out clearly the services our team provides.
Finally, it will help you get the most from our services, including how to make a complaint if you are dissatisfied with any aspect or have ideas for improvement.
2. Who we are
The Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) is the official service for the control of serious diseases of aquatic animals in England and Wales.
We are a regulatory body based in the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
Cefas is an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
2.1 What we do
We are responsible, on behalf of Defra, in England, and the Welsh Government (WG), in Wales, for fish and shellfish health matters.
Our main aim is to prevent the introduction and spread of serious fish and shellfish diseases.
We achieve this through risk based surveillance, monitoring, trade controls, and responding to disease problems.
We also provide advice on biosecurity, disease prevention and disease mitigation measures.
2.2 Contacting us
Fish Health Inspectorate
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm 01305 206700
Calls outside this time will be to a telephone answer machine.
If your matter is urgent, you can contact our on duty inspector on 07833 293506.
Our priority is to provide an efficient and high quality service that is valued by customers and the public.
This document outlines the standards of service we aim to provide. These standards are regularly reviewed and updated. We are open to feedback and use this to improve our service.
We aim to respond to all enquiries, including applications, whether received by post, fax or email within 15 working days - unless specified otherwise.
If this is not possible, we will inform you of the reason why within 5 working days of receipt and indicate when you can expect a full reply.
3.2 Telephone calls
We aim to answer to your telephone call within 6 seconds. Our staff will identify themselves by name and will be courteous, helpful and professional at all times.
If the first person you speak to cannot handle your request, they will transfer you to someone who can. When transferring a call, they will explain what is happening and give you the name of the person who will be dealing with your enquiry.
Where that person is not available, or where a message is left, we will ensure that someone calls you back within 24 hours.
Following receipt of your fully completed application to start a fish or shellfish farm, we will send you an acknowledgement. We will also provide you with guidance on creating a biosecurity measures plan.
A consultation process then begins, which can last up to 90 days, under the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009. During this process we will visit your site and consult with other relevant government bodies.
After the consultation results are received we write to you with the outcome within 15 working days.
4.1 Importer authorisation
Following receipt of your fully completed application, we will send you an acknowledgement and, if required, provide you with guidance on creating a biosecurity measures plan.
Importer authorisations do not require completion of a consultation process, but may require a site visit. We aim to inspect your site within 20 working days.
On receipt of a correctly completed application and, where required, a visit report, we will confirm authorisation in writing to you within 15 working days.
Following receipt of your correctly completed application we will send you confirmation of registration, along with registration documents, within 15 working days.
For incomplete or incorrect applications, we will attempt to contact you in writing, in the first instance, and failing that by telephone. We will work with you to complete the form.
5.1 Change of site details
If the details of your registered site change - this could include the owners, species or facilities - you should notify us in writing within 90 days.
We will then amend your records and reissue your registration documents within 15 working days.
6. Appointments, visits and inspections
6.1 Booking your visit
When booking a routine appointment our inspectors will give at least 10 working days notice. We will endeavour to confirm the appointment in writing, and explain what will happen during the visit.
However, occasionally we are required to make visits at late notice or without prior appointment. In this case, we will inform you of the proposed date of visit at the earliest possible opportunity.
6.2 During your visit
We aim to arrive promptly for all pre-arranged appointments. If this is not possible we will contact you to explain the delay and arrange a new appointment if appropriate.
On arrival, the inspector will tell you their name and the purpose of their visit.
On completing a site visit we will provide you with a verbal summary of our findings, which will include what you can expect next.
6.3 After your visit
Following an inspection where no sample has been taken, we will provide a written summary report within 15 working days.
If a sample was taken, we will call you to report the results where a notifiable disease has been found within 1 working day of receiving the test results. In most cases sample testing can take at minimum of 10 working days. We will then confirm this in writing within 5 working days.
If a notifiable disease is not found, we will write to you within 15 working days of the diagnostic results being available.
7. Disease response
7.1 Serious diseases
We aim to respond within 24 hours where a disease not already present in England and Wales is suspected.
For all other serious diseases we will respond within 2 working days.
When informed of a fish or shellfish mortality, where we suspect a disease is present, we will respond within 2 working days.
We require a minimum of 5 working days notice to guarantee completion of the export paperwork and, if required, the availability of an inspector for a visual stock inspection.
We require a minimum of 1 working day notice of any import of live fish, shellfish and eggs into England and Wales from the European Union.
After the import has been complete you must send us a copy of the signed health certificate within 5 working days.
9. Farming non-native species
We will acknowledge receipt of your fully completed application within 15 working days.
Your application will then be assessed to see if it must be put out for consultation with other government departments. Applications to farm non-native species will be dealt with, where possible, under the same process for authorisations.
9.1 No consultation period
Licences which do not require a consultation period will be processed within 15 working days.
9.2 Consultation period
Some applications are then sent out for consultation (eg non native species at a farm). This process can take up to 90 working days.
Once all consultation comments are received we will inform you in writing of the result within 15 working days.
10. Openness and accessibility
10.1 Information requests
Requests for information held by the FHI are dealt with on a case by case basis in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
We will respond in 20 working days. If this is not possible we will explain why and give you an expected date for a response.
10.2 Sharing data
We collect data for aquatic animal health and biodiversity purposes. We may share your information with other government departments and agencies for this purpose, or for the purposes of enforcement.
10.3 Data protection
However, at all times we will observe the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and any personal information we hold about you will be treated in accordance to that legislation.
You are entitled to a copy of the information we hold about you and you have the right to rectify any inaccurate information that we may hold.
Primarily we are responsible for investigating offences and enforcing the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009.
Our strategy is to work with the industry to provide help, advice and encourage voluntary compliance with legislation.
However, the policy aims to deal more actively with repeat offenders, or those committing serious offences.
A complaint is any received expression of grievance or dissatisfaction with the service provided which requires a response.
We take all complaints seriously. They will be dealt with promptly. By learning from complaints we take action to improve the service we provide.
12.1 First point of contact
In the first instance, please write to the Head of the Fish Health Inspectorate at Cefas.
It will help if you fully outline the facts of your case. Complaints will be investigated and responded to within 15 working days.
Our response will explain our findings and how we believe the complaint can be resolved.
Should it not be possible to meet this timescale, we will discuss the delay with you and provide a revised deadline.
If the complaint relates to government policies, then it will be referred to the appropriate Defra official with responsibility for that policy area.
12.2 Second point of contact
If you still feel the matter remains unresolved, please write to the Director of the Aquatic Health and Hygiene Division at Cefas.
The Director will investigate complaints regarding standards of service and report back to you within 15 working days.
If a response in this deadline is not possible, you will receive a letter explaining why and letting you know when a response can be expected.
12.3 Third point of contact
If you are still not satisfied with the outcome you can then write to a Member of Parliament and ask for your complaint to be passed to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Alternately you can write to the Defra Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment.
We always look for ways to improve our service and welcome your views regarding all aspects of our work and its delivery.
We regularly request feedback using electronic and paper surveys. This is then reported quarterly on GOV.UK comparing our performance against our stated standards.
Feedback is vital in telling us how we are performing and we would be interested in any comments about your experience of our services.
Should you wish to comment on our performance, or about the performance of one of our team, please contact the Head of the FHI by letter, email, in person, or by telephone.