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Genomics

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

What recent assessment he has made of the merits of using genomics in healthcare.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

We are world leading in genomics and should celebrate that. A recent trial at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge provided whole genome sequencing, identifying underlying genetic conditions for babies and children in intensive care. As a result, three quarters of those young patients received changes to their care. The NHS genomic service is working to embed genomics in routine healthcare. Later this year, the national genomic healthcare strategy will set out the ambitious programme for the next 10 years.

Photo of Bill Grant Bill Grant Conservative, Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

With increasing direct-to-consumer genomic testing by private companies, can my hon. Friend advise what assessment has been made of the potential impact of self-referrals on NHS services?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Patients who need a genomic test from the national genomic test directory will be referred to the NHS genomic medicine service. However, I recognise that some patients may contact their GP for advice after taking a commercial test. NHS England is working with partners to ensure that GPs receive training to help them respond correctly. Public Health England and the National Screening Committee have also published guidance on private screening.

Photo of Adrian Bailey Adrian Bailey Labour/Co-operative, West Bromwich West

Health service professionals in the Black Country are concerned that the removal of local funding for in-house molecular testing for cancer in April in favour of regional genomic laboratory hubs could in certain circumstances cause delays in diagnosis and be more expensive. Will the Minister look at this again in order to refine the processes to address these particular issues?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Clinicians should be in charge of the process, and I have been assured that the change, using genomic testing, is better for patients and better for outcomes, but I would of course be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and discuss it further.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

I commend the Minister for the progressive approach the Government have taken to genomics, but for a large number of genetic diseases the symptoms do not manifest themselves until after developmental damage has been done. Will the Government consider whether we should extend genomic testing to all neonates—all newborns—at some point in the future?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Government are very open to such an approach. Genomics is transformative, and the early detection of disease means that we can treat patients from birth better and more efficiently.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Surely all this must be put in the context of the Topol review, with so much innovation and not just in genomics? There is so much innovation going on in the health service, but we have to make sure that there are well-managed and efficient hospital trusts running these programmes. Many are not like Huddersfield and are not up to speed, and we have to get hospitals up to speed in using the new technologies.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman, and my constituency neighbour, the Secretary of State, is totally on this programme.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

In January, the Secretary of State announced that genomic testing would be provided in NHS England to healthy subjects for a few hundred pounds. This ill-advised plan, which would have widened health inequalities, seems to have gone quiet, so can the Minister confirm that the Government no longer plan to sell genetic testing and genomic testing in NHS England?

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

As the hon. Lady knows, because we have worked together on this agenda, it is never about selling the product; it is about better patient care and ensuring that we get technology to the patient as speedily as we can for better and appropriate diagnosis.