Future of government funded UK genetics bodies in doubt

27 September 2010

Plans to cut masses of UK quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations) as part of ongoing public spending cuts by the coalition government have been mooted in the UK media. Following the announcement that various arms-length bodies including the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) were to be abolished (see previous news), a new list of nearly 180 groups has been reported by the BBC news and the Telegraph newspaper.

The BBC reports that of more than 600 quangos, 180 will be abolished, 124 merged and 56 reformed, with plans for a further hundred such groups still under consideration. Those reportedly (though not yet officially) to be abolished include the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC), the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC) and various medical advisory committees in areas including transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TESs), the safety of blood tissues and organs, dangerous pathogens and antimicrobial resistance.
Whilst a review of the large – many would say excessive – number of quangos at a time when urgent spending cuts are needed is a very good idea, some have expressed concern at the potential loss of expertise and accountability for the government set against minimal savings. Many of these are committees or bodies that do not cost a significant sum to operate, as opposed to whole organisations.

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