Genetics services in six areas of the UK are set to receive £18 million of government funding to upgrade their laboratories, Health Minister Lord Warner has announced. The investment is part of a £50 million government initiative to incorporate new genetic technologies into healthcare, outlined in the Genetics White Paper published last June. The news follows recent announcements of increased funding for gene therapy trials, research into 'personalised' medicine and a new genetics education centre in Birmingham.
The laboratories set to receive the cash boost are based in London, the South and East of England, the West Midlands, East Midlands and South Yorkshire, the North West, and Northern Yorkshire. The funds will be used to upgrade equipment and make services more efficient, cutting waiting times for urgent test results to three days. 'Genetics will have a profound impact on healthcare, helping to predict and prevent ill health', said Lord Warner. 'As our understanding of genetics develops, we will be able to test patients for common diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes', he added, saying that the extra funds will help the NHS 'to provide access to these new genetic tests and also get results to patients more quickly'.
The Genetics White Paper set out the standards for genetic test results which should be available by 2006: within three days where the result is needed urgently, for example in prenatal diagnosis, within two weeks where the potential genetic fault is already known, and within eight weeks for unknown mutations in a large gene.