IBMS response to Professor Dame Sally Davies’ annual report

IBMS response to Professor Dame Sally Davies’ annual report
4 July 2017
Read our statement on genetic testing report

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies has called for the UK government to review and develop how genomic medicine is dealt with in the NHS.

In her annual report  Dame Sally calls for improvements to genomic medical services across the UK to promote her ‘genomic dream’, citing that she wants whole genome screening (WGS) to become standard practice.

Imagine if as part of cancer screening, a patient could receive WGS through a centralised service. The doctor analysing the WGS could choose the drugs mostly likely to help the condition, and avoid ones that would be ineffective, preventing unnecessary drug treatments and side effects for the patient and ultimately saving time and funds.

Whilst costly at £700, WGS can find errors in DNA code that cause cancer. Dame Sally wants DNA testing to become standard practice for cancer treatment, and commented in her annual report, “I want the NHS across the whole breadth to be offering genomic medicine - that means diagnosis of our genes - to patients where they can possibly benefit."

NHS patients can already receive genetic testing at twenty-five regional laboratories in England, but Dame Sally’s report calls to ‘embed national standards, streamline laboratories; and in a secure environment, agree to use of data for our own benefit and others’.”

This would mean a centralised service for patients, across a national network, with a national genomics board to oversee the development and production of future genomics services for healthcare.

This target is not without its risks. Managing the collections of sensitive patient data is one challenge, and patients need to understand their rights in relation to their personal patient data and consent to the use of it for such procedures and tests.

IBMS Deputy CEO Sarah May, commented on the IBMS stance of Dame Sally’s focus of genomic testing in her annual report:

“We support the Chief Medical Officer’s view that DNA testing should become standard across cancer care. The UK has a workforce of highly skilled and trained biomedical scientists that are preparing to meet this new diagnostic and treatment challenge. We are launching two new biomedical science qualifications in 2017 which are intended to directly support the new and expanding science and technology and help to achieve Dame Sally’s vision for personalised diagnosis and healthcare.”

As Professor Dame Sally Davies’ report says, “Genomics is not tomorrow. It’s here today.”

For more information, you can read Professor Dame Sally Davies’ annual report online.


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