All Wales Psychiatric Genomics Service Officially Launches in Wales
Until recently, mental health services have not had access to crucial information specialist genetics can provide, however through a collaboration between the All Wales Medical Genomics Service (AWMGS), Cardiff University’s MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics & Genomics, the National Centre for Mental Health(NCMH) and NHS Mental Health Services this is set to change.
Conceived from the needs of people with lived experience of mental ill health, the All Wales Psychiatric Genomics Service (AWPGS) aims to provide genetic counselling and access to genetic testing for people across Wales who are genetically more likely to experience a mental health disorder.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Consultant Psychiatrist and Professor of Psychiatry at Cardiff University, Professor James Walters said:
“This service represents the realisation of many years of research in Cardiff and across the world to find out more about the contribution of genetics to the risk of developing mental illnesses. For some people, genetics plays an important part in the development of their mental health problems, and we hope this new service can contribute to improving their mental and physical health”.
“We are one of a few teams in the world offering this service and it’s exciting to be setting out on this journey with patients, their families and colleagues from genetics and mental health services in the Welsh NHS".
Approximately 30,000 (or 1 in 100 people) in Wales are affected by severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, which can negatively impact family life, social relationships, education, employment opportunities and overall quality of life.
Whilst many people recover with schizophrenia, most people have longer term problems and approximately 30% have symptoms that do not improve on standard treatments. Physical illnesses are also common and largely account for the 15-year decreased life expectancy in those with schizophrenia. Of everyone with schizophrenia, 3-5% will have genetic risk factors that can have wider implications for health, including physical health problems which if identified early, can be treated and/or prevented.
In an interview with BBC Wales Health Correspondent, Owain Clark to celebrate the launch of the service, Clinical Scientist, Dr Jade Heath, PhD said:
“The All Wales Medical Genomics Service has a wealth of experience in identifying genetic variants in patients with physical and developmental health conditions. We are excited to expand our genetic testing provision to improve and personalise the management of those individuals and families affected by mental health disorders.”
AWPGS is underpinned by a multi-disciplinary team of experts including psychiatrists, geneticists, genetic counsellors, clinical scientists, psychologists, pharmacists, paediatricians, and academic mental health and social science researchers.
Consultant Clinical Geneticist, Dr Annie Procter said:
“It's not just about testing, it's about counselling and having an informed conversation about the quality of life they want to aspire to. There are some people and professionals that are concerned that we're trying to root out mental health genes... this is not what this is about. This is about choice and to learn and understand more about your personal situation."
Genetic Counsellor, AWMGS Donna Duffin said:
“Having a better understanding of the causes, such as genetic contribution that we have no control over, can help alleviate misplaced feelings of guilt and blame, and help to empower individuals. We will be offering this service throughout Wales to ensure that people have the same level of care no matter where they live.”
Clinical geneticists and mental health professionals can now refer individuals and families who:
- have questions about how genetics may be relevant for people with a diagnosis of psychosis or a neurodevelopmental disorder.
- want to know more about the possible genetic risks of having a family history of mental health disorders, including preconception and perinatal genetic risk advice.
- wish to discuss the risk of developing a mental health disorder associated with a known neuropsychiatric genetic risk variant(s) ascertained by NHS genetic testing or findings from specific research studies.
- in the clinician’s view may benefit from multidisciplinary assessment and possible genetic testing
To read more about the All Wales Psychiatric Genomics Service, please click here.
To read the full BBC coverage including an interview with Marc Flagg, a lecturer who has first-hand experience of the difference diagnoses can make to personal mental health and wellbeing, please click here.