Much concern exists in the academic and policy communities - as well as society more broadly - about patents on human genes and their potential negative impact on healthcare. Numerous patents over human genes have been granted and, whilst some of these have been challenged in legal proceedings, many continue to exist. Study of the law alone suggests that increased legal and administrative burdens and royalty stacking could potentially have a deleterious impact on the provision of genetic diagnostic tests. Indeed, research in the United States indicates that attempts by patent holders to enforce their patents have caused some laboratories to cease offering certain genetic diagnostic tests. However, there is little empirical data which examines the impact of gene patents on practice in the UK. In this paper I present the results of a qualitative study examining the impact of human gene patents on translational research in genetics in the public sector in England. I describe how patents have not to date had an appreciable negative impact on the development or delivery of genetic tests to patients within the UK public health care system, and I examine the reasons for this.