23 April 2018

Ambitious plans to make the NHS a world leader in genomics are at risk, MPs have warned.

Delays in digital infrastructure and cuts to training budgets are holding back the deployment of the UK’s “world-leading” genomics capabilities, according to the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons.

It also risks losing public support through a lack of public awareness of its benefits, MPs found.

The UK has the 100,000 Genomes Project – but the medical community “remains to be convinced” it can replace existing diagnostics procedures for conditions such as common cancers, the MPs say. In contrast the case for using whole genome sequencing for rare diseases and some cancers is “compelling,” they say.

So far some 50,000 genomes have been sequenced for the project, the MPs heard – and work will now continue on this part of the project until the end of this year.

The MPs heard the optimal balance between whole genome sequencing and alternative genomic tests was not always clear.

There are also ethical concerns over the collection and use of patient data, they say.

The report says that genomics should be embedded in all relevant training courses and medical revalidation processes.

Committee chair Norman Lamb said: “We are concerned that the NHS’s delayed digital infrastructure projects will slow down the roll out of genomics in the UK.

“We are calling on the Government to continue, and increase, its investment in this area and allocate specific funding to the necessary genomics technology and systems.”

He added: “The UK is a world leader in genomics, and the establishment of a Genomics Medicine Service could dramatically improve health outcomes of UK citizens.

“Genomics has the potential to revolutionise NHS healthcare, but we are concerned that this potential is threatened by delays in the NHS’ digital projects, reduced genomics training budgets, and potential public concerns over sharing personal health data.”



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