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GPs should not refer patients based on genetic tests alone, says RCGP

GPs should ignore genetic tests from commercial companies that have no clinical basis, the RCGP has said.

Last month, the RCGP said it was not the responsibility of GPs to interpret genetic tests results from commercial companies

The RCGP, alongside the British Society for Genetic Medicine, has now advised GPs to not refer patients to secondary or tertiary care on the basis of genetic test results alone. 

In a position statement, the RCGP said GPs should ‘not take at face value, or attempt to interpret, reports from non-accredited and non-kite-market laboratories such as direct to consumer (DTC)  companies’.

The college explained that due to the nature of the genetic code and the risk of false positives and false negatives it is difficult to interpret results at present. 

The statement said: ‘The ability to confidently interpret how variation within the genetic code impacts a person’s health or risk of disease is often weaker than people expect. Furthermore, it will often require contextual information such as clinical signs, symptoms or family history to facilitate interpretation.

‘Confirming a clinical diagnosis through genomic testing can be very helpful, however predicting future health problems from genomic testing alone is still a vague inaccurate science. This fact can come as a surprise to patients and professionals since the discourse about genomics is often rather deterministic.’

It added: ‘Patients should not be referred to secondary or tertiary care solely on the basis of DTC results alone. Because of the high chance of false positive or false negative results, referrals are only indicated if existing referral criteria are met.’

From next year, DHSC-owned genetics service Genomics England will carry out a pilot allowing babies to have their DNA checked at birth to see their risk of inherited diseases.

GP leaders fear the plans will ‘brand’ patients at the beginning of their lives without their consent. 

GPs also warned the Government that its recent plans to introduce genomic testing in five million patients could exacerbate GP workload and workforce problems.