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Concern raised over private genetic testing

By Nigel Praities

Peers have expressed concern over the impact of genetic tests sold directly to the public and have called for greater support for GPs.

The report from the House of Lord's Science and Technology Committee published today says the increasing availability of genetic testing over the internet is putting pressure on the NHS and caused unnecessary worry for patients.

The peers recommend firms providing direct-to-consumer genetics testing are required to publish details of the effectiveness of the tests they offer and provide pre- and post test counselling to help consumers interpret the results.

They also call for the Government to improve the training of GPs in genetics and produce a ‘roadmap' for introducing more genetic testing in primary care.

The move comes weeks after a Pulse investigation revealed growing concern among GPs about the tests provided by private companies, with four in five GPs saying they had seen patients at their surgery about suspected problems uncovered by private tests and scans.

Lord Patel, who chaired the Inquiry, said: ‘We have concerns about the growth of "at home" direct-to-consumer tests.'

‘Without proper qualified interpretation results of genetic and genomic tests could cause people to worry unnecessarily and place new demands on NHS services.'

‘It is time firms offering these tests were required to provide counselling and guidance on interpreting the raw results they provide,' he said.

The committee heard evidence from RCGP representative Dr Imran Rafi, who said direct-to-consumer genetics testing would become ‘a time-consuming affair' for GPs.

‘There are going to have to be service models set up to look at what is the most effective way of being able to provide patients with the necessary support that they need,' he said.

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