On 18 March 2022, the UK Government, along with the Welsh and Scottish Governments and Northern Ireland Assembly published a report, agreeing a series of commitments to improve outcomes for patients through better genomic testing and access to clinical trials. For the first time, these shared commitments set out priority actions across the UK and are part of wider plans to improve healthcare through genomics, the study of genes and DNA.
The Genome UK strategy, announced in 2020, built on innovative work already underway to create reportedly the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world and deliver better healthcare at a lower cost, and formed part of the government’s wider commitment to reform healthcare and ensure the UK and the NHS remain at the forefront of cutting-edge treatment. For example, using research to evaluate the use of whole genome sequencing in new-borns to screen for rare genetic conditions and diagnose rare diseases earlier, enabling more tailored treatment sooner.
The Genome UK strategy, which aims for UK-wide implementation between 2022 to 2025, includes shared commitments with several clear aims.
- Improving cancer diagnosis and treatment by working across the UK to better integrate genomic testing into healthcare and increase access to clinical trials to provide better, personalised treatment.
- Providing earlier detection of disease by establishing a clear, evidence-based approach to new-born genome sequencing, led by Genomics England in partnership with the NHS, alongside the devolved governments, to ensure learning is shared across the UK to benefit new-borns and their parents nationwide.
- Building on the successful UK-wide partnership in sequencing of COVID-19 to strengthen collaboration on sequencing of other diseases. As part of this, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will set up a national group on disease genomics with representatives from the four nations.
- Encouraging innovative and cutting-edge industry partnerships in research and development across the UK, to support implementation of Genome UK by bringing together the UK-wide genomics ecosystem to improve collaboration and maximise investment.
- Producing high-quality research by bringing together genomic data sets across the UK and increasing access to clinical trials, as well as ensuring research feeds back into the NHS to improve patient care.
Building on the collaborative and innovative ways of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, these commitments aim to build on scientific successes, tackling future disease challenges and ensure patients access more tailored treatment.
The shared commitments build on the vision outlined in Genome UK in September 2020 and the commitments in the first implementation plan for 2021 to 2022, and these will be followed by more detailed implementation plans from each country by the end of 2022.
Source: UK Government, 18 March 2022