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iHV and Genomics Education Programme collaborate

21st April 2023

Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and Genomics Education Programme collaborate to support health visiting practice in genomics.

iHV has been collaborating with the Genomics Education Programme (GEP) following a Nursing and Midwifery Round Table discussion in 2019.  We recognise the potential that health visitors have to include genomics in their care and have considered how to embed genomics in health visiting practice. This blog provides an update on this work and an overview of opportunities.

GEP was created in 2014 by Health Education England to ensure that the NHS workforce is equipped to use genomics in patient care and treatment across the UK. Since then, it has supported a range of workstreams to deliver this aim.

Genomics is changing health care in many areas such as diagnosis and personalised medicine, prevention through offering more opportunities to screen patients, and research.   In strategy documents, such as GENOME UK – the future of healthcare, the government is clear that genomics is to become part of mainstream NHS care. For health visitors, this is an exciting development and health visitors may be involved through supporting investigations, offering advice and access to treatment for the children and families we care for. Alongside this, genomics may impact on health visitors’ own health care.

Genomics England is leading a large scale research study to sequence the genomes of over 100,000 newborn babies to look for a specific set of genetic conditions which can be cared for by the NHS.  It is hoped that this will begin in 2023.  For more information on this research study, please click here.

The collaboration between iHV and GEP led to the development and evaluation of a range of educational resources for health visiting, including a series of GPP eXtras on genomics, and webinars to embed the learning. GEP also worked with iHV to develop a page for health visitors on their website which you can access here.

When asked, health visitors told us that they needed more input to develop their knowledge and practice in genomics. This has led to GEP commissioning the iHV to deliver a programme of work over the next 24 months, which will include the following 4 aims:

  • Scope the current learning requirements in health visiting across England in Genomics to inform an education and training plan. Deliver education and training to meet current learning requirements of health visitors to embed genomics in day-to-day practice and evaluate this.
  • Work closely with GEP and stakeholders such as the Genomic Medicine Service Alliances (GMSAs) to integrate health visitors into the national and local genomics structures and develop their role within each GMSA. We hope to develop how we do this by creating Genomic HV ambassadors.
  • Undertake a strategic role to consider genomic services for children to span their childhood.
  • Explore and implement innovative ways of learning by utilising current frameworks such as the GEP Clinical Pathway Initiative (CPI) and considering other ways of learning to address any gaps.

The iHV is delighted to be working with GEP to take forward this work. Sally Shillaker, as Practice Development Lead – Genomics, will be leading this as part of the iHV team. Sally is delighted to be working on this project and really wants to empower health visitors to embrace the opportunities that the future holds by developing their knowledge and skills in genomics.

From left: Sally Shillaker (Practice Development Lead – Genomics); Ed Miller (Education Specialist at GEP); and Professor Kate Tatton-Brown (Clinical Director of GEP)

For Sally, genomics was a new area, and she has found it a complex area to understand. However, she firmly believes that health visitors are key to ensuring that children and their families have equal access to genomics if they need it and that health visitors have many existing skills which make them ideally placed to develop their practice of genomics, thereby becoming more expert. At the iHV, we are really thrilled to have been commissioned to deliver this work in collaboration with the GEP team.

We will keep you posted about this work and we may approach you to share your learning requirements in genomics so that we can further develop education and training that is relevant and helpful for you.

Ed Miller (Education Specialist) from GEP says:

“The Genomics Education Programme (GEP) has a commitment to educate and train the 1.5 million-strong NHS workforce. By signposting to genomics services and supporting patients following a diagnosis, thereby embedding genomics into routine practice, and by playing a key role in research studies such as the Newborn Genomes Programme, health visitors provide a valuable service to children and their families in the community.

“The GEP is delighted to continue working with the iHV, a UK Centre of Excellence that supports the development of universally high-quality health visiting practice. We recognise that the task of educating such a wide and diverse workforce as the NHS would not be possible without such collaborations.”

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