1 Genetics and healthcare
1.1 What is the future of healthcare?
When someone in the UK visits their GP for a flu jab, to confirm a pregnancy, or to report an unexpected pain, they know that behind him or her stands a vast system for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease in the whole population. The details differ from country to country but, like all industrialized countries, the UK has a healthcare system that is one of the largest industries. Tens of thousands of people and tens of billions of pounds a year come together inside a complicated network of institutions to try to achieve what the Americans call ‘health maintenance’. The effects of genetic knowledge and the speed with which they come about will be set, in large part, by health services. The new technologies — for genetic testing or screening, pharmacogenetics or gene therapy — will have to be used by health workers. Governments, or health insurers, will have to pay for these new technologies, and answer for their effectiveness. Policy-makers will have to decide not just whether these new technologies can be used, but how they will fit in with existing organizations.