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NHS Starts Pilot Program to Increase Doctors' Genetics Knowledge

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The UK's National Health Service wants to prepare its physicians for the changes that personalized and genomic medicine will bring to the healthcare field and has invested £4.5 million ($7.4 million) in a new pilot program to begin that process.

The goal of the new program is to provide enhanced training in genetic technologies and clinical applications for healthcare scientists working in laboratory genetics.

Funded by the Department of Health under the UK Modernizing Scientific Careers programme, the pilot will begin to "address the training needs of the healthcare science workforce in genetics," the Department of Health said today.

Set to begin in October, the program will fund 24 pilot training posts for 12 trainee Healthcare Science Practitioners and 12 Healthcare Scientists in Genetics. These trainees will be based in a number of NHS genetics departments throughout England, and they will meet for national training events.

The pilot will have four components and goals including establishing a national School of Genetics in the West Midlands; modernizing the genetics curricula to respond to breakthrough scientific advances and their applications for patients and the public; responding to future workforce needs to keep up with discoveries from the last decade about how to diagnose and predict disease; informing other healthcare science training programs that will begin in 2010 and will be implemented in 2012.

"Geneticists carry out life informing work by predicting and diagnosing disease so it is fundamental that we invest in creating training and career opportunities for this important group of NHS staff," Health Minister Ann Keen said in a statement. "This pilot will also inform the Modernizing Scientific Careers programme as it moves to implementation as well as creating a high quality healthcare science workforce which will make the benefits of science and technology a reality for patients."

The NHS West Midlands program will coordinate the national program and the trainees, prepare trainers, ensure the requirements of assessment processes, and serve other functions.

The UK's House of Lords earlier this month released a report stating that the mainstream NHS is "poorly equipped" to meet the "increasing demands" that genetic testing is placing on doctors and nurses, and said that more training in genomic medicine will be vital.

To meet those needs, the UK needs to begin taking steps toward addressing knowledge of genetics and genomic medicine, the House of Lords Science and Technology committee said in the report, and urged the creation of a white paper that would outline how genetics technologies could be integrated into the national health system.

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