The role of NHS England is to prepare the NHS to harness the power of genomic technology and science to improve the health of our population. The NHS will be the world-leading healthcare system in its use of cutting edge genomic technologies to predict and diagnose inherited and acquired disease, and to personalise treatments and interventions. The NHS will also be able to support a greater understanding of disease and its evolution, building new strategic partnerships with Research and Development and Industry for the benefit of patients and the public in this country and beyond.
The UK is recognised worldwide as a leader in genomics and the unique structure of the NHS is allowing us to deliver these advances at scale and pace for patient benefit.
In March 2017, the NHS England Board set out its strategic approach to build a National Genomic Medicine Service, building on the NHS contribution to the 100,000 Genomes Project. This comprises five key elements:
- A national genomic laboratory service through a network of Genomic Laboratory Hubs
- A new National Genomic Test Directory to underpin the genomic laboratory network
- A national Whole Genomic Sequencing provision and supporting informatics infrastructure developed in partnership with Genomics England
- A clinical genomics medicine services and an evolved Genomic Medicine Centre service
- A national co-ordinating and oversight function within NHS England (Genomics Unit)
The systematic application of genomic technologies has the potential to transform patient’s lives by:
- enabling a quicker diagnosis for patients with a rare disease, rather than years of uncertainty, often referred to in rare disease as the ‘diagnostic odyssey’
- matching people to the most effective medications and interventions, reducing the likelihood of an adverse drug reaction
- increasing the number of people surviving cancer each year because of more accurate and early diagnosis and more effective use of therapies
There are also significant benefits for research and development that can be leveraged on behalf of the NHS, taxpayers and the wider economy. The NHS as the single biggest integrated healthcare system in the world is in a unique position to harness the potential of whole genome sequencing to benefit NHS patients but also, through the life sciences industrial strategy, demonstrate the nation’s competitive advantage in enhancing understanding of diseases, and developing products for earlier detection and treatment.