UK health service 'unprepared' for genomics

3 August 2011

Sir John Bell, the chairman of the government’s advisory Human Genomics Strategy Group (HGSG) has said that the UK is missing out on the opportunities for both patient and commercial benefits offered by modern genomics.
In an interview with Mark Henderson of the Times newspaper, Sir John says that the National Health Service (NHS) is ‘completely unprepared’ to deliver personalised, genome-based medical care.
Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly enthusiastic about the potential of genomic medicine to improve medical care, but Sir John has warned that the NHS in not ready to adopt the emerging innovations, despite mounting evidence that the improvements in diagnosis and treatment they offer could ultimately save money.
The latest news of genomics as a diagnostic tool to reveal the cause of serious disease in a young girl from the UK (see previous news) was also highlighted as an example of the potential benefits as yet unavailable via the health service.
Sir John identifies policy barriers to the uptake of genomic technologies including failures to plan for the future, a lack of incentives for commercial development, unsuitable evaluation procedures for genetic tests, and a widespread lack of understanding of the uses of genetic testing among health professionals.

Comment: The PHG Foundation’s independent report and policy recommendations on the measures needed to drive prompt adoption of whole genome sequencing technologies into the NHS are to be presented to the HGSG this autumn. The report, which draws on evidence and discussion with top UK experts in genetics and health, will provide a coherent roadmap for the health service to integrate genomics into standard clinical practice across a wide range of medical specialities. 

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