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(UK) 140,000 people waiting for ASD assessment

Apr 3, 2023, Worksop Guardian: Dozens of Worksop and Retford patients waiting too long for autism diagnosis

N. England

Dozens of people with suspected autism in Bassetlaw waited too long for a diagnosis in December, new figures show. The National Autistic Society said a diagnosis is vital and called on the Government to provide imminent funding to clear the soaring backlog of people with suspected autism across England.

However, the latest NHS Digital figures show about 50 people suspected of having autism were waiting for an assessment after being referred by a specialist in the former NHS Bassetlaw clinical commissioning group area at the end of December.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance says no patient should wait longer than 13 weeks, but 30 people in Bassetlaw had already breached this standard at the end of last year.

In December 2021, about 25 people had an open referral, of which 25 had been waiting for more than 13 weeks.

Meanwhile, the number of people with an open referral for an autism assessment has soared during the pandemic – in December 2019, 15 people were waiting for a diagnosis.

Nationally, more than 140,000 people were estimated to be waiting for a diagnosis at the end of last year, up from 47,000 in December 2019. Of these, more than 120,000, 87 per cent, have waited more than 13 weeks.

The National Autistic Society said a diagnosis is “vital to getting the right help and support” and that many struggle at school, work or home, or can develop mental health problems like anxiety or depression without one.

Tim Nicholls, NAS head of influencing and research, said: "Without significant, long-term funding for diagnosis services across the country, many autistic people will continue to face traumatic long waits for an assessment.

“As a result, many will be left struggling without the right support at school, work and home. The Government must urgently invest in diagnosis services, as set out in the national autism strategy for England, and ensure autistic children, young people, adults and their families get the support they need.

Of the people waiting for a referral, about 15 were aged 17 and under.

The Department for Health Social care said it is “committed to reducing delays and improving access to support”.


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