NHS England’s genomic laboratory response

1 May 2020

A specific set of urgent genomic testing has been prioritised by NHS England to continue during the Covid-19 crisis. NHS England’s list of patient groups with urgent needs, to which services should be directed is as follows:

Prenatal testing, including:

  • pregnant women undergoing prenatal diagnosis
  • urgent advice on carrier testing relating to pregnancy, including cystic fibrosis and thalassaemia
  • follow up on abnormal fetal scans

Postnatal and paediatric care, including:

  • critically ill newborns and children requiring assessment
  • a continuation of the rapid whole exome sequencing service for those in paediatric intensive care units or neonatal intensive care units

Urgent testing for:

  • conditions where rapid genetic testing may alter clinical treatment or decision-making
  • patients requiring urgent testing, for example BRCA testing, to inform cancer treatment options

This prioritisation will allow laboratory capacity to be released for Covid-19 testing, but will mean that less urgent genomic tests will be delayed. This means that diagnosis for patients that do not fit into the urgent categories above will be postponed and/or delayed. This may include some of the feedback of the 100,000 Genomes Project results, NHS England indicate that direct communication with participants on this point will come in due course.

The full guidance from NHS England can be found here. Alongside this prioritisation, the guidance indicates that staff may be redeployed, and explains simplified funding arrangements.