Caution needed over commercially available genetic testing, says RCGP

Publication date: 16 October 2019

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a BMJ article exploring 'over-the-counter' genetic health tests.

She said: "Genomic sequencing data has huge potential to improve the care patients receive in the future – but we agree with the authors of this paper that at present, caution should certainly be advised by both healthcare professionals and the public.

"The College has already voiced concerns about the increasing availability of commercial genetic tests – firstly, because the results could cause undue worry or inappropriate reassurance for patients, and secondly because of the workload implications in general practice.

"Genetic testing shouldn't simply be done to satisfy a patient's curiosity about their health as the results could have very real implications. But as it stands, we don't have the expertise to interpret them in a sophisticated enough way to be of great benefit for our patients.

"Our members have reported patients coming to see them with the results of commercial genetic tests, asking for them to be interpreted – and some commercial companies actually advise this instead of providing the necessary advice and feedback themselves.

"But GPs and our teams are already working under intense resource and workforce pressures – with patients waiting too long for a routine appointment as a result - so this is not a good use of our time or NHS resources, and should be the direct responsibility of the companies that are being paid to perform the tests."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 53,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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