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(UK) Bristol: Restricting who gets on 2 yr waitlist in ASD assessments

Mar 24, 2023, Families slam new Bristol autism referral rules 'discriminatory, shocking, and backwards'


Parents of children with autism in Bristol have branded new rules on who can be referred for diagnosis assessments as "discriminatory, naive, and dangerous".

Children must now be in 'crisis' before being placed on a two-year NHS waiting list to be seen by healthcare provider Sirona - which runs services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

The company said the changes were needed because of a dramatic increase in demand for assessments. Sirona said it has taken a "clinically-led decision to prioritise access for children whose needs are greatest".

But Jai Breitnauer, a mum of two from Ashton, said this is discriminatory. Her older son Jessie, aged 14, was diagnosed with autism at the age of six, meaning he was able to go to a specialist school.

But her younger son Eli, aged 11, was only recently put on the two-year waiting list for an autism assessment. Now because of the criteria changes, he has dropped to the bottom of that list….

What is the new criteria?

Children and young people whose education placement is breaking down despite appropriate support

Children and young people whose family unit is at risk of breakdown despite support from appropriate agencies

Children and young people in care or on a child protection plan for whom an assessment is needed

Children and young people who are open to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) or children who are not open to CAMHS but are presenting with a serious risk to self or others

Children and young people who are involved with youth offending services and/or are engaged in repeated offending behaviours.

Children with very low levels of communication where the difficulties are likely to be associated with autism (usually Early Years)

A joint statement from Sirona and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: "We recognise that parents and carers have concerns about the referral criteria changes and we're sorry if this has caused additional anxiety for families….

"Alongside this, over the coming months we will undertake a system-wide review of services, working with partners to ensure neurodiversity is recognised and understood and the needs of children can be met without requiring a medical diagnosis….

'It goes against the National strategy for autism published in 2021'

Nura Aabe is the founder of Autism Independence, a community organisation which tackles the stigma of autism in the Somali community….


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