Genetic services in Scotland are set to benefit from a £10 million investment over the next two years, Scottish Health Minister Andy Kerr said last week. The announcement came as the Scottish Executive published its response to a recent report on the provision of genetic services in the country. The money - around £4m this year and £6m in 2007 - will include funding for genetics training of healthcare professionals, the training of more genetics specialists, new laboratory equipment and the establishment of a network to encourage public discussion of genetics issues.
The Expert Working Group's Review of Genetics in Relation to Healthcare, headed by Sir Kenneth Calman, was set up in June 2004 to review NHSservices and the application of genetic knowledge in Scotland. The resulting report, published on 1 September, makes a series of recommendations designed to ensure patients benefit from new developments in genetics. 'As more is learned, it is anticipated that there will be significant increases in the demands for specialist genetic counselling and testing services and the use of genetic tests for diagnosing and planning treatment for a wide range of conditions', said Mr Kerr, adding 'that's why we called for this review'.
The review revealed that there are currently ten full-time-equivalent genetics consultants working in Scotland, half the number recommended for its population. It also found that there are just 15 genetic counsellors working in the country, which it says is 25 short of the number required. Alastair Kent, director of the UK charity Genetics Interest Group (GIG), said that the funding announcement was 'fantastic news for everyone in Scotland, but particularly those who experience the often-devastating effects of having a genetic condition, and their families'.
There are four Scottish regional genetics centres, based in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Mr Kerr praised the existing clinical genetics service in Scotland, saying that it has 'provided the model on which developments in other parts of the UK are being taken forward'. He added: 'Nevertheless there are many areas where we can take forward work to ensure that Scotland continues to offer the highest quality services in the future'.