Exciting future for genomics in Northern Ireland – Swann

Date published: 18 March 2022

Health Minister Robin Swann has today co-published a series of Shared Commitments to progress Genomic healthcare in the UK, alongside Health Ministers in Scotland and Wales and the Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences in England.

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The Shared Commitments form the second implementation phase of Genome UK – the future of healthcare, published by the UK Government in September 2020, and set out a series of joint, UK-wide, high-level commitments to work together along with delivery partners across the UK, to implement and realise the potential of genomic healthcare for the benefit of all patients, for the period 2022-2025.

Minister Swann said: “I am pleased today to announce the publication of the UK-wide Shared Commitments for Genomic Healthcare. These commitments will ensure that all patients across the UK can benefit from the wide range of emerging opportunities offered by genomic healthcare – more preventative healthcare, faster diagnosis, and personalised and better treatment – and that researchers and industry are supported and incentivised to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of genomic research internationally.

“Through participation in the 100,000 Genomes Project, and over £3m funding by my Department and the Medical Research Council, Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland has made much progress in field since 2015. Further development of and investment in genomics services is now needed to ensure that we meet these shared commitments with our UK partners and remain at the forefront of medical and scientific developments in diagnostics, research and patient care.

“My Department plans to establish a Genomics Partnership for Northern Ireland, bringing together delivery partners from across government and the HSC, public health, industry, research and academia, with patient input, working together to deliver an integrated genomics service for the population. This is a key priority within the NI Rare Diseases Action Plan, which I intend to publish shortly and which aims to harness genomic capabilities to end the diagnostic odyssey by providing earlier and faster diagnoses for many rare disease patients.

“This approach will also support our other key strategic priorities such as the Cancer Strategy, which includes a commitment to deliver genetic and genomic testing in cancer pathways in line with NICE recommendations, and also in public health, where rapid genomic sequencing of pathogens has proven so vital in our current and future pandemic preparedness.”

Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young said: “Genomic medicine is the scientific driver for many of the most important advances in healthcare and will help us to ensure that the right treatment can be delivered to the right patients at the right time.   These shared commitments will help us to ensure that Northern Ireland patients can receive maximum benefit from advances in this area.”

Minister Swann concluded:

“The future of genomics in Northern Ireland has the potential to be very exciting and far-reaching in its ability to benefit patients and families here, however it is imperative that we lay the proper foundations for the service to develop and thrive. Publication of these Shared Commitments today is the first step and establishment of a Department of Health-led Genomics Partnership will allow us to keep step with our UK counterparts and ensure future progress in this exciting field, for the health, wealth and prosperity of our  population.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Genome UK – the future of healthcare, was published in September 2020 by the UK Government, setting out the government’s 10-year strategy to create the most advanced genomic healthcare system in the world, delivering better health outcomes at lower cost. 2025 marks the half-way milestone in the 10-year strategy and the Shared Commitments state the UK nations’ clear commitment to work together along with delivery partners across the UK to implement these and realise the potential of genomic healthcare for the benefit of all UK patients.
  2. The Shared Commitments document can be found here
  3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk.
  4. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
  5. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service For Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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