The NHS has a long and proud history of embracing technology and innovation to deliver faster diagnoses and more effective treatments for patients, and the NHS continues to lead the world in harnessing the power and potential of genomics – the study of the genes in our DNA and their function.
This is at the centre of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service (GMS) in England. We have now reached an important part in the establishment of our overall infrastructure with the launch of seven NHS GMS Alliances that will oversee and coordinate the embedding of genomics into mainstream clinical care and the link with personalised medicine.
Embedding genomics into patient care pathways
The establishment of the NHS GMS Alliances will help embed genomics into routine care locally and across the whole population the NHS serves in England by bringing together the vital multi-disciplinary clinical leadership and other operational and digital functions that are necessary to make this possible.
The GMS Alliances will review equity of access for patients to the genomic tests commissioned by the NHS and set out in the National Genomics Test Directory, no matter where they live in England. They will support the establishment of testing pathways for cancer and rare diseases, help enable clinicians to request genomic tests, introduce new models of care that support early access to genomic testing and understand where there are areas of unmet need.
The NHS GMS is a key vehicle on the journey towards embedding personalised medicine into mainstream healthcare including, for example, targeted cancer treatments based on the DNA of a tumour instead of its location in the body and treatments guided by pharmacogenomic testing. The GMS Alliances will continue this mission and help ensure this personalised approach becomes the norm for patients in the NHS in the future.
Ensuring NHS staff have the understanding and confidence to utilise genomics safely and effectively is another key focus of the GMS Alliances. This will involve the development of Workforce Transformation programmes that cover nursing and midwifery, pharmacy and medicine with each NHS GMS Alliance being responsible for overseeing these programmes in their area. These will link in with the Genomics Education Programme run by Health Education England and workforce leads established by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
This will all be made possible by facilitating strong collaborations across large geographies, by bringing together the Genomic Laboratory Hubs that form the backbone of the NHS GMS together with our clinical genetic services inclusive of genomic counsellors, with all provider organisations across the care continiuum and with Primary Care Networks, Cancer Alliances, research and academia and patients and public representatives to build trust in genomics, and provide clinical and scientific leadership to enable all staff across the NHS to use genomics safely, effectively and efficiently.
The NHS GMS Alliances are:
- NHS North West GMS Alliance
- NHS North East and Yorkshire GMS Alliance
- NHS East GMS Alliance
- NHS Central and South GMS Alliance
- NHS North Thames GMS Alliance
- NHS South East GMS Alliance
- NHS South West GMS Alliance
Patients will be at the heart of everything the NHS GMS Alliances will be doing, with representatives being present on their partnership and leadership boards and playing a key role in decision-making across each region and nationally through coordination with NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Since the NHS GMS launched in October 2018 it has made huge strides in ensuring genomic testing, brought together in a network, is standardised for different conditions and applications and is delivered by cutting edge technologies. It has helped provide diagnoses and treatments for critically-ill babies, found the missing pieces for families who have a loved one living with a rare disease and transformed the lives for some with cancer with treatments that would not have been found otherwise.
There are also more exciting developments in the pipeline including whole genome sequencing for children with cancer and children and adults with a suspected rare disease. This will fundamentally change how we think about disease and lead to faster and more comprehensive accurate diagnoses and more tailored and effective treatments for patients.
Understanding the role our DNA plays in disease holds the key to finding treatments for conditions we know about and for those we are yet to discover and the NHS GMS, and the NHS GMS Alliances, will help us light up the dark for so many.
If you would like more information on your regional NHS GMS Alliance and their contact details please email email@example.com.