The “vast majority” of NHS doctors are “not up to speed” with modern genetic techniques that can transform patients’ survival chances, a Government adviser has warned. Professor Patrick Chinnery, a member of the Medical Research Council, said the pace of technical advance meant swathes of the workforce need extra training. Genomics, and in particular whole genome sequencing (WGS), promise a revolution in personalised medicine that can flag an individual’s risk of disease and identify treatments most likely to work. Health chiefs are embracing the science, with a largescale pilot currently running that will lead to a full-scale Genomics Medicine Service within the NHS. But Professor Chinnery, a mitochondrial specialist at Cambridge University, told The Telegraph that while current medical students are being adequately trained, doctors above the age of 30 need to “get up to date”. He said demonstrating a working knowledge of genomics could soon be a condition of the re-licensing process all doctors go through every five years. It means those unable to update their knowledge of what was previously a specialist discipline could face losing their licence to practise. “All doctors will need to be able to understand when to use genomic testing and how to interpret the results they get back from the lab in practice,” Professor Chinnery said. “In the short-term it’s the specialists who will use it but we will increasingly see patients knowledgeable about genomics going to their GPs with questions. “GPs will need to understand what is possible.” The Genomics Medical Service will use approximately eight “factories” across the country to analyse the entire genetic blueprints of NHS patients and compare them to medical records. The more people who donate their genomes, the more links scientists can identify between genes and gene variations, diseases and possible cures. The success of the project will rely on the genomic literacy of front-line staff. The more genomes donated, the more links scientists can find to specific diseases and cures Credit: Reuters However, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) suggested family doctors are under such pressure they may not have time for the extra training required. “We’ve got a job to do to bring the whole profession along with us,” said Professor Chinnery. “The principles of the science are already known, but it’s the breadth of its use which is the challenge. “It will be an interesting test to see whether the processes are there in the system to respond to such a dramatic change in healthcare.” Genomics is already playing a major role in guiding doctors towards the best treatments for various cancers, such as Herceptin for women with HER2 positive breast cancer. In addition, around 80 per cent of rare diseases, affecting approximately three million people, are genomic in origin. Earlier this year the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said all cancer patients in Britain should undergo DNA gene sequencing to prevent the misery of misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. A person’s entire genetic makeup can be studied from just a small sample of blood or saliva. There are currently 25 small laboratories in Britain running DNA testing for a handful of conditions at around £600 per whole genome sequence, but reports predict costs could be slashed dramatically it they were brought under a centralised system. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said she welcomed the potential of genetic science, adding: “But in order to interpret this data so that we can use it in a meaningful way, GPs and our teams will need to be provided with access to robust reporting, high quality training and the time and resources to learn about these new developments and the time to effectively communicate genomic data with their patients. “They must also be given support around the substantial ethical, social and legal implications that come with handling such sensitive patient data. “It must also be remembered that GPs and our teams are currently under intense resource and workforce pressures, and this needs to be taken into account before any more duties – including suggestions of mandatory training – are imposed on our profession without sufficient resources and capacity to safely deliver them.” The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, is currently consulting on the skill requirements graduates need to engage in genomics. read more Disclaimer: Chances are that this post was requested by an advertiser.