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The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and my noble friend Lord Selborne asked whether the Government intend to establish an institute for bioinformatics. The Government's main priority is to reduce the budget deficit and so I cannot give a commitment now on this matter. However, the Human Genomics Strategy Group will lead on giving this issue further consideration as it looks at how best we might take forward issues such as the proposed institute.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle and my noble friend Lord Colwyn referred to predictive genetic testing. My noble friend rightly said that there is a moratorium on predictive genetic test results until 2014-certainly by insurance companies. We are due to review the concordat and moratorium in 2011 and we believe that that is the right time to review the Select Committee's recommendation. We will specifically examine the question about whether a long-term agreement about the use of genetic testing for insurance purposes is appropriate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked whether the Department of Health had commissioned NICE to develop and manage a single evaluation pathway specifically for diagnostic technologies. Good progress has been made. NICE's evaluation pathway programme for medical technologies and diagnostic assessment programme are already helping the NHS to adopt effective and cost-effective medical devices and diagnostics more rapidly and consistently. She asked about the role of value-based pricing and perhaps I may write to her on that. It is a matter slightly for the medium term, but I will write to her on that even though our thoughts are not yet fully worked out.

The noble Baroness also raised the issue of BIS working with the Department of Health to ensure that the intellectual property system supports diagnostic test development. Intellectual property issues will be considered as part of the innovation sub-group of the Human Genomics Strategy Group and BIS is fully engaged with the department in taking that matter forward. She also spoke about single-gene testing for sudden cardiac death. As she knows, the taking of human tissue for any scientific or medical purposes is governed by the Human Tissue Act, which is essentially based on consent. However, I would like to provide the noble Baroness with a fuller answer and so I will take this issue away and ask my officials to supply more detailed information.

My noble friend Lord Colwyn spoke about genetic testing kits sold to the general public and expressed his worry about that. Often, the answer proposed is that there should be some form of regulation. We have thought about that carefully, but we cannot see that

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compulsory regulation would be effective, given the cross-border nature of the market delivered by the internet. The Human Genetics Commission's common framework of principles provides what we see as a proportionate and effective response, given the support that it has received from the international industry and other interested parties.

The noble Lord, Lord Warner, asked whether NICE was evaluating genomic tests for common diseases. Good progress has been made. NICE's new medical technology advisory committee has been appointed and NICE's evaluation pathway programme for medical technologies and diagnostics assessment is already helping the NHS to adopt effective and cost-effective medical devices more rapidly. The noble Lord referred to the excellent and interesting report by the PHG Foundation, a copy of which I have. We have noted that report with considerable interest. The Human Genomics Strategy Group has been asked to note the recommendations in that report as part of its work to develop a strategic vision.

The noble Lord spoke about the commissioning of genetic testing in the NHS, which was a subject raised by several noble Lords. The UK Genetic Testing Network is part of the national specialised commissioning team in the London NHS. It currently offers more than 400 genetic tests for single gene disorders. Those are available across the NHS. It is held up as an excellent template for the evaluation and commissioning of genetic tests. It is widely admired and copied across the world.

Several noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Patel, have put the $64,000 question to me about the possibility of a White Paper. I have to disappoint the noble Lord, because we do not believe that there is compelling evidence for a White Paper on genomic medicine at the moment. The point of a White Paper would be to address a perceived lack of strategic direction. I hope that I have shown that that is not an issue, not least because of Sir John Bell's strategy group. That is particularly true because the White Paper of 2003 was reviewed in 2008; several initiatives were refreshed, including the strengthening of specialised genetic services, building genetics into mainstream services, spreading knowledge across the NHS and generating new applications. That is clearly a matter that we will have to keep under review.

Like your Lordships' committee, we want a future strategy for these services. That strategy must be clear, patient-led and deliver better health outcomes at a time when the national finances are in a mess. We look to Sir John Bell to provide us with that road map. We need to look at what we have already achieved and ensure that the system is delivering what the NHS needs. If not, we must be committed to making the necessary changes to make it work. Finally, we must be creative in how we deliver to ensure that we not only maintain our reputation for the science in this area but translate that science into services for NHS patients.

It is my hope, as it is the Government's, that Members of this House, especially the noble Lord, Lord Patel, will continue to provide us with the benefit of their knowledge in this area and that they will remain at the forefront of this debate over the years ahead.



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9.29 pm

Lord Patel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. I quite understand that, at this early stage in their life, the new Government are unlikely to commit to major projects. I am, of course, disappointed by the fact that they will not take some things forward but, on the other hand, I am extremely encouraged that the Minister committed himself to look at other things further or to observe their progress, particularly through the strategy board. It is encouraging that the pathology service mentioned in the report by the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, will be taken forward.

As far as information technology is concerned, I think that the Minister's advisers will be proven wrong.

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We know what kind of biomedical information system we require. We also know that, if we have an adequate bioinformatics system, it will regenerate information that will be helpful not only for healthcare but for developing biomarkers.

On the whole, I thank the Minister. I know that he takes medical issues seriously and that he will do so in future. I thank all noble Lords who took part in this debate and I am gratified that so many did so. Finally, my noble friend Lord Winston should do more guest performances because he is rather good at them. I look forward to hearing him again.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 9.30 pm.


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