4th July 2017
Calling for the procedure to become routine as MRI or CT scans, Professor Dame Sally Davies said the NHS could deliver a “genomics dream” within five years.
More than 31,000 NHS patients have had their entire genetic code sequenced since 2013, while whole genome screening is already being used to identify and treat strains of tuberculosis.
Research suggests that in 60% of cases the genomes of cancer patients reveal “actionable” data – personal mutations that can shape future treatment.
Dame Sally said NHS England should capitalise on the “huge implications” of this by significantly increasing patients’ access to genetic tests.
Insisting the project was “not a fantasy future”, Dame Sally said: “The age of precision medicine is now and the NHS must act fast to keep its place at the forefront of global science.
“This technology has the potential to change medicine forever – but we need all NHS staff, patients and the public to recognise and embrace its huge potential.”
In her annual report, Dame Sally recommended centralising the “cottage industry” of 25 regional laboratories which conduct genetic testing.
The report also suggested:
:: The creation of a new National Genomics Board, chaired by a minister, to oversee the expansion and development of genomic services
:: Training for every existing clinician in genomics and schemes to ensure their successors are equipped to practice genomic medicine
:: The establishment of a standing committee of experts to advise on the availability of genetic tests and indications for their use
Speaking about her findings, Dame Sally said in the short term “all appropriate patients” should be given the opportunity to have their genomes sequenced under the guidance of experts.
She added: “My dream is that, in the end, every patient gets their genome done if they’ve got cancer.
“It’s not just their genome but it’s the cancer itself, and as the cancer changes over time and with treatment it will need redoing.
“But you go at it through what will give a worthwhile actionable result for the patients, and the experts will tell us.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report, saying he would “support the NHS to continue its relentless drive to push the boundaries of modern science”.