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NHS England Unveils Five-Year Genomic Healthcare Strategy

NEW YORK – National Health Service England on Wednesday published a five-year strategy on accelerating the adoption of genomics into the British healthcare system. The new strategy places genomics at the heart of a new effort to deliver a sustainable model of healthcare for patients.

According to the 64-page report, previous endeavors, such as the 100,000 Genomes Project, have set the foundation for using genomics in routine clinical care, and the 2018 rollout of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service has continued that trend.

NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard said in the report that the strategy has identified four priority areas to carry this work forward. These include embedding genomics across the NHS into primary, community, and specialist care; delivering equitable testing for cancer, rare, inherited and common diseases, and drug metabolism; supporting genomic data analysis and integrating genomic data with other kinds of diagnostic data; and developing the service to ensure that patients receive the most up-to-date care.

Advances in technology, as well as the declining cost of sequencing and a lightened computational load due to the use of artificial intelligence, are making increased adoption of genomics feasible. NHS England noted in the report that its national fetal exome sequencing service will soon move to whole-genome sequencing because it is now possible to do so, and that the conditions are now right to introduce genomic screening for other conditions.

As NHS England embeds genomics into routine healthcare, it will also invest in outreach to better educate clinicians and patients. The organization aims to establish a genomic medicine service ethics advisory board as part of such efforts. NHS England also said that it will look to recruit and train more specialists to support the adoption of genomic healthcare. 

In terms of data analysis, the NHS will work with Genomics England and other partners next year to publish a genomics implementation plan that will outline how NHS genomic data can be made interoperable with other NHS systems data. An NHS Genomics Data and Digital Board will be established to oversee these plans, NHS England said.

Genomics England will also be a partner for the NHS in helping to move whole-genome sequencing into clinical care to improve diagnosis rates, and to evaluate the clinical implementation of AI in healthcare, according to the report.