The West Midlands NHS Genomic Medicine Centre (WMGMC) has been hailed as a ‘model for transformational change’ in healthcare by Professor Sue Hill, NHS England’s Chief Scientific Officer.
Professor Hill was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham this week, Healthcare Science Week 2017, to speak to delegates at the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) annual Healthcare Science Networking and Dissemination Day.
She stressed the key role that healthcare scientists can play in helping the NHS meet the challenges of increasing demand for its services and limited resources.
“Never before have people been looking so much towards science to see how the NHS can be sustainable and meet the demands of the population as we go forward,” she said.
“In the Five Year Forward view that sets out the direction for the NHS, it was recognised that we needed to embrace and spread disruptive innovations such as genomics – but also to harness the power of the comprehensive digitisation of healthcare information.
“It’s about bringing science and technology together with information and using that to change the burden away from a health service that’s focused on late-stage disease and its identification and treatment, to one that’s much more about maintaining health, and being preventative in its approach.
“The 100,000 Genomes Project and the way the NHS has been contributing to it provide a really good example of how we can think about driving transformation for the future.”
This initiative aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases and cancer by sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from patients and combining the results with their personal healthcare information to potentially provide individually tailored therapy.
The WMGMC, led by University Hospitals Birmingham, is one of 13 centres nationwide delivering the project – but is unique among them in the sheer number of NHS trusts that it brings together in collaboration.
“I’ve got great hopes for the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre – because it’s working with 18 trusts across the region. It’s a real model for transformational change,” added Professor Hill, who started her own career in Birmingham and spent three decades at what is now UHB.
“Genomics will be at the core of a personalised medicine approach in the NHS in the future and I think we’ve got a real opportunity across the West Midlands to drive this.”
“The challenge for all of you in the region now is how you can use the infrastructure that has been created in the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre as a template to drive other models of transformational change in clinical areas beyond genomics.”