The GEP is undertaking workforce analysis to understand the requirements of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service

With the rollout of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service (GMS) offering patients across England equity of access to genomic testing for the first time, it has never been more important to ensure that the NHS workforce has the right capacity and capabilities in genomic medicine.

The HEE Genomics Education Programme has been working in collaboration with colleagues across the health service and beyond to gather and analyse data on current and projected workforce capacity across a range of professions and levels, and make recommendations to address gaps in numbers and skills.

Why are we undertaking this work?

While the launch of the NHS GMS is a crucial driver, the rationale for this workforce planning activity is underpinned by two important publications.

First is the 2018 report from the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology’s inquiry into genomics and genome editing, whose chair, Norman Lamb MP, noted:

“Evidence to our inquiry warned of gaps in the training needed for the NHS Genomic Medicine Service. We are recommending that the government conduct the required workforce planning and provide the necessary funding to ensure that UK genomics is not held back by a lack of capable practitioners.”

In February 2019, the Topol Review – commissioned by the UK government, led by cardiologist, geneticist and researcher Dr Eric Topol, and facilitated by Health Education England – made eight key recommendations about genomics in the NHS in its final report, including:

“Capacity should be built within the NHS Genomic Medicine Service through support for specialist healthcare professionals including genomic counsellors, clinical scientists and specialists in genomic medicine.”

Multidisciplinary team

Project milestones

Phase one

The work to date has involved the GEP working closely with Health Education England’s workforce planning team to gather both quantitative and qualitative workforce data from electronic staff records, the NHS Genomic Laboratory Hubs, NHS Genomic Medicine Centres and clinical genetics departments.

We have been looking specifically at the workforce associated with rare disease and inherited cancer, including such roles as clinical geneticists, genetic counsellors and bioinformaticians. The data collected includes existing workforce numbers and skill mix, but also information around the anticipated impact of the implementation and delivery of the NHS GMS over the next 5-10 years.

Phase two

The next stage of work will include analysis of the workforce associated with the cancer arm of the NHS GMS.

This information will inform future supply and demand modelling for the genomics workforce to ensure we have the capacity and capability required to deliver a sustainable, world-leading genomics medicine service.