Parents of children with suspected autism are having to wait at least 44 months for diagnoses, prompting a cross-party group of more than 140 MPs to write to the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, demanding urgent action.
The startling new figures, revealed in response to a freedom of information request, relate to children under the age of five who need a specialist autism assessment after being referred by a GP or other health professional.
The request, submitted by a concerned member of the public, relates to an area of Teesside covered by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS foundation trust. But Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said that such “unacceptable” delays were a problem in many parts the country but varied hugely from one region to the next.
“An autism diagnosis can be life-changing,” he said. “It can explain years of feeling different and help unlock crucial advice and support. The longer someone lives without the right support, the higher – and more expensive – their needs can become.”
The official response to the request showed that if a child aged under five and living in Stockton was referred to a specialist assessment team today, the family would have to wait roughly 44 months before receiving any answer. In neighbouring Middlesbrough the waiting time was six months.
Article from The Guardian, 15 October 2017