NHS changes 'will delay cancer checks': Sufferers from genetic diseases 'may be denied new treatments'

WOMEN at risk of inherited breast cancer will not receive proper screening 'for years' even though researchers expect to identify the relevant gene within months, one of the country's foremost clinical geneticists warned yesterday.

The problem is the Government's changes to the National Health Service, as a result of which many people suffering from genetic diseases may be denied powerful new treatments, according to Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith of Cambridge University.

Despite repeated attempts by civil servants to cut him short, Professor Ferguson-Smith told a press conference yesterday of his 'fear that preventive medicine will lose out' in the new NHS. He warned that the 14 regional genetics centres in England and Wales could close. It would be more difficult to provide genetics services under the new system whereby individual hospitals fulfil contracts to be 'providers' of medical services which GPs and other 'purchasers' buy.

Professor Ferguson-Smith said: 'We are now thinking of breast cancer screening. We do not have the infrastructure in the present system to handle that and I can't see funds coming from the purchaser-providers to make it happen.' Once the gene is discovered, he expects that women in families with a history of the disease would come forward for testing but under the new system, he warned, 'to get the grants to do it will take years. Yet these are anxious women who need counselling and advice'.

Research into genetic disease could also be adversely affected by the changes. The existing NHS system had allowed the development of a unique set of records of patients with genetic disorders, which was proving invaluable to researchers hunting the genes responsible for human disease.

Professor Ferguson-Smith's comments echo the fears of support groups for families affected by genetic diseases. The support groups have been worried for some time that elementary treatment - such as genetic counselling - might be threatened by the internal market reforms of the NHS.

Professor Kay Davies, who heads the Medical Research Council's Clinical Sciences Centre, also told yesterday's press conference that the collection of clinical data for genetics studies was 'extremely well organised and needs to be protected against changes in the NHS'. However, Professor Davies was more hopeful: she pointed out that the Department of Health has set up an internal study group to examine the problem.

A Department of Health spokesman dismissed the fears. He said: 'This is ridiculous. The reorganisation of the regional health authorities will have no effect on funding of this kind. Applications will be considered on their merits as they always have been.'

Last November, the Department of Health set up a research task force under Professor Anthony Culyer of York University to review ways in which the NHS funds its research and development. The task force is is expected to report to ministers by the end of the month.

Geneticists expect to see huge numbers of disease-related genes being discovered as a result of an international research programme, known as the Human Genome Project. Britain is one of the leaders in this research which will map out and analyse every one of humanity's 50,000 to 100,000 genes.

Professor Davies headed a group of independent geneticists which yesterday launched a report on how British prowess in gene research can be maintained and developed.

The Human Genome Mapping Project in the UK; HMSO; pounds 9.95.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little