The Department of Health & Human Services provides funding and support for public reproductive, paediatric and adult genetic and heritable cancer services in Victoria.
The Department of Health & Human Services funds high quality public genetic services in Victoria and provides a range of diagnostic testing and risk assessment services.
Genetic services strategy
As genomics is increasingly incorporated into routine healthcare and public health, the Victorian Government’s Genetic and genomic healthcare for Victoria 2021, launched by the Minister for Health in November 2017, is a strategy outlining what needs to be done to further embed the appropriate use of genomics to benefit the health and wellbeing of Victorians.
The strategy identifies the following four priorities for action in the next 12 to 24 months:
- developing and implementing a statewide genetic and genomic services plan to ensure more equitable access to appropriate and sustainable services
- establishing a genomic health clinical network to improve the safe and fair adoption of genomic healthcare practice by the health workforce
- undertaking community consultations to consider some of the ethical, legal and social issues associated with incorporating genomic information into routine healthcare (such as health literacy and secondary findings).
- reducing superbugs and improving detection of infectious disease outbreaks through strengthening of microbial genomics activities in Victoria to improve the health of Victorians.
Genomics is increasingly playing a vital role in how we deliver healthcare in Victoria. The Victorian Government’s Health 2040: Advancing health, access and care strategy (November 2016) sets the vision for healthcare in Victoria, including the use of genomics.
Genetic and genomic healthcare for Victoria 2021 complements the National Health Genomics Policy Framework, which the COAG Health Council endorsed and released in November 2017. This national framework presents a shared commitment to leveraging the benefits of genomics in the health system for all Australians.
Public genetic services
Clinical genetic services in Victoria are provided on a hub and spoke basis. There are four metropolitan hubs that provide services and also provide outreach clinics to other metropolitan, regional and rural hospitals:
Parkville - Victorian Clinical Genetics Services/Royal Children’s Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Royal Women’s Hospital
Heidelberg - Austin Hospital, Mercy Hospital for Women
Clayton - Monash Medical Centre
East Melbourne - Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.
Some clinics are general, covering all genetic conditions. Others are staffed to address specific conditions such as familial cancer, cardiology or neurogenetics.
Types of services available
The following services are available in Victoria:
- clinical diagnosis
- clinical risk assessment
- genetic counselling
- diagnostic testing
- predictive testing
- professional training.
Public genetic services are delivered within broader health service policy outlined in the Victorian health priorities framework 2012-2022.
Referral to genetic services
Access to genetic services is by referral from a general practitioner or specialist. A person can also self-refer if they are already diagnosed with a genetic condition. Or a family member of an individual already diagnosed with a genetic condition can refer them to genetic services.
Services are available for children, adults and their families and may be provided in consultation with other specialists in areas such as oncology, neurology and cardiology.
Support for patients and carers
The Genetic Support Network of Victoria (GSNV) is a community resource for patients affected by genetic conditions and their families, health professionals, government and the general community.
GSNV offers a range of services including information, support groups and links between families with the same condition. It also represents the interests and views of patients and their families to the community, and to state and federal governments.
Newborn screening is available for all babies at birth in Victoria. Further information is available at Victorian Clinical Genetics Services.
Advances in genetics
Genetic services have the potential to ease (if not avoid) immense individual suffering.
Advances in human genetics over the past twenty years have revolutionised knowledge of the role of inheritance in health and disease.
Recent advances in human genetics include the mapping of the human genome, increasingly accessible technology, increased awareness of genetic issues in the community and the identification of links between individual genomes, disease occurrence and treatment responsiveness.
Genetic testing has the ability to predict the level of individual risk for inherited medical conditions, based on an individual's genome. This means that individuals, in collaboration with their healthcare professionals, can decide on interventions that may delay or even avoid onset of some medical conditions.