NHS 'unready' for gene test demands

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The Independent Online
THE NATIONAL Health Service is not ready for the expected explosion in public demand for genetic testing, according to a new report, writes Alison Little.

The NHS is "sleep-walking into a genetic future", says the report from the Institute of Public Policy Research, due to be published tomorrow.

Its author, Jo Lenaghan, a research fellow in health policy at the IPPR, claims that private companies are offering inappropriate services to the public without proper explanation of the technology.

"We are discovering lots of new developments in genetics every day," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "We haven't identified the questions, let alone provided the answers to the issues it raises for the NHS."

She said she did not believe it was yet understood that GPs would have to explain the implications of genetic testing in terms, for example, of disease.

"The aim of our report is to begin this debate and try to develop a national co-ordinated strategy so the health service can take advantage of these new developments," she said.

Dr Vivian Nathanson, of the British Medical Association, told the programme the NHS had been looking at the issue for some time. "The difficulty is that there are a lot of uncertainties," she said. It was not yet known how many of the new discoveries would be really useful in the short term.