UWE Bristol leads the way to mainstream genomics in the NHS via upskilling nurses and midwives

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Genetic variations occur in the human body, which can make us sick, more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes, cancer or make us respond to drug treatments differently. UK is recognised worldwide as a leader in genomics, which is utilised in the NHS to deliver these advances for patient benefit in line with the NHS Long Term Plan. These commitments are delivered by the NHS Genomic Medicine Service (GMS) for England to provide consistent and equitable care across the country; operate to a common national standard and deliver a single national test directory covering use of all technologies from single genes to whole genome sequencing. This approach will allow quicker and earlier diagnosis and more effective use of therapies with reduced likelihood of adverse drug reactions. To help achieve this ambition the NHS workforce needs to understand where genomics is relevant to their role.

At UWE Bristol, with the leadership of Prof Aniko Varadi, we have been committed to genomics education of the NHS workforce and mainstreaming of genomics since the launch of the 100,000 Genomes Project in 2012. UWE Bristol was one of the West of England NHS Genomic Medicine Centre establishing partner organisations during the delivery of the 100,000 Genomes project and we led the Education and Training workstream for the region.

Since 2019 we have been transforming genomics education of nurses and midwives in collaboration with Health Education England (HEE), Macmillan Cancer Support, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Genomics England and the South West Genomic Laboratory Hub. This long partnership led to the development and recent validation of the first national Post Graduate Certificate in Genomics programme aimed specifically for these professionals. 

The validation panel were exceptionally complimentary about the PG Cert in Genomics programme and made several commendations including for ‘The passionate, compassionate and excellent understanding of students and their journey’ for ‘thoughtful and inclusive assessment strategies’ and for ‘inclusive and innovative alignment to strategy 2030’!

We influenced the education of nurses and midwives in genomics nationally and internationally, and presented at the Health Education England’s round table discussion: Genomics Education Programme’s Nursing and Midwifery Transformation Strategy for participants from a range of organisations, professional bodies and Royal Colleges (2021); at the Royal College of Nursing From niche to necessity: Genomics in routine care national meeting (2021); and at the Festival of Genomics and Biodata (2022), the world’s largest genomics event.

To date UWE Bristol have been awarded £675,000 research and knowledge exchange income from HEE for genomic-related workforce development. Prof Varadi highlighted that “This work involved extensive collaborations with stakeholders and support from our 65 students, who have helped us to develop an innovative programme, the first of its kind. It is exciting to be a pioneer in an area which has the potential to revolutionise   health care. So many people helped us to get to this point that it would be hard to include everyone but a special thanks goes to Louise Trimby (RBI); Emma Youde, Sarah Bateman, Pam Moule (HAS); Alison Pope (HEE); Amanda Pichini (Genomics England); Maureen Talbot (BHF); Dany Bell (Macmillan Cancer Support); Tracie Miles (Royal United Hospital, Bath); Catherine Carpenter-Clawson and Melanie Watson (South West Genomic Laboratory Hub); and to all our students who have completed our first module. We are very excited about the future of genomics education, workforce training and mainstreaming of genomics.”

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