NHS Commissioners Proposing Revolutionary Autism Initiative

Commissioners in south west London are considering radical proposals intended to reduce the number of children being diagnosed with autism in the region.

This centres around restricting diagnosis to only the most severe cases, with the proposal having already been discussed in meetings in the area.

However, despite conducting an open dialogue on the subject, the local alliance of five clinical commissioning groups has stated explicitly that nothing has been decided yet.

But the National Autistic Society has stated that it is “deeply concerned” about the plans.

Papers indicate that mental health trusts in the region are experiencing intense pressures, with waiting times for the diagnosis of autism already in the region of one year.

With the team designed to deal with 750 assessments annually, it is currently receiving around double that level of demand.

This has necessitated this extreme reaction, with the focus on the most serious cases simply requisite in the existing climate.

The papers state that NHS commissioners have asked the trust to review who is eligible for the service.

“The effect of reviewing and revising the criteria must be to reduce the number of children and young people who are able to access a full diagnostic assessment from the trust,” the report comments.

But autism charities are very concerned about the consequences of this policy, and the National Autistic Society has already written in protest to the local CCGs.

The charity’s head of policy, Sarah Lambert, believes that the impact on children in the region could be little short of catastrophic.

“If it goes ahead, this will leave many local children without access to a diagnosis and unable to access the specialist support they desperately need. That will threaten their long-term prospects and put a greater strain on many already vulnerable families. We believe this goes against CCGs’ legal duty to make sure children in their area can access a diagnosis service. An autism diagnosis can be life changing. It can explain years of feeling different and help unlock crucial advice and support.”

But the clinical commissioning groups in question submitted a joint statement indicating that no firm commitment has been made at the time of writing.

“No decision has been made by the Trust or by the commissioning CCGs on taking this approach forward. We absolutely recognise the concerns of families of children with a neuro-developmental condition and the groups who support them. Any potential changes to the service would require detailed engagement with stakeholders. The CCGs are fully committed to talking to local people before reaching any conclusions on the way forward.”

The statement concluded by indicating that the process of decision-making is still ongoing at present.

“We want to be clear that nothing has been decided by the CCGs or changed at this time and no change will happen in the next 12 months.”

Clinical commissioning groups in the region ran a campaign two years ago which highlighted the difficulties that those with autism face in acquiring a suitable diagnosis.

 

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