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(UK) Darlington: "More than 10K children waiting for ASD assessment"; 29% increase since March

June 8, 2023, ITV News: Darlington mum says waiting four years for an autism assessment is 'heartbreaking'

NE England

More than 10,000 children in the Tyne Tees region are currently waiting for an autism assessment.

The data from NHS England shows that in March 2023, 10,385 children in the North East and North Yorkshire had an open suspected autism referral.

84% of those children are waiting longer than the 13-week target time for their first appointment.

Guidance from NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence states that no-one should wait longer than three months between being referred and first being seen.

The data also shows there has been rise of 2,365 children waiting for an assessment since March 2022- a 29% increase.

Vinnie Earl from Darlington is waiting for an assessment for autism and ADHD (attention deficient hyperactivity disorder) and the 10-year-old's family have been told it could take four years….

Vinnie’s brother Oscar received a diagnosis for ADHD and autism after waiting for three years. He now receives medication. Oscar said: "I take them every morning when I get down for my breakfast and they help me to be able to focus.”…

Long waiting times for assessments is an issue raised in Parliament by Peter Gibson, the Conservative MP for Darlington.

Mr Gibson has spoken to NHS bosses at the mental health trust that carry out assessments in the Tees Valley: “This is not about money, but the recruitment and retention of the necessary staff they need to carry out these assessments.

"I am not being told they don’t have the money to recruit. If they told me that, I would be banging on the Treasury door to demand that extra money.”

Mr Gibson also said there are other organisations that can support families and people waiting for a diagnosis.

He told ITV Tyne Tees: “There are a range of organisations like parent and carer forums and Daisy Chain and other charities and groups who are able to provide help and support guidance….

The North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board which provides funding to a number of health trusts and specialised organisations to carry out the assessments said: "Sadly, we know that too many people in our region are waiting too long to be diagnosed with autism or other neurodevelopmental differences, meaning that early help and support is delayed, which we know is very difficult for the person and for those that care for them.”

“We have seen a major increase in demand for assessments and support services over the past three years. This is very challenging to manage as these services require a workforce with specialist skills and knowledge which will take time to develop. This is however not just an issue in the North East and North Cumbria but also nationally.”…

On 5th April 2023, NHS England published a national framework and operational guidance to set out the process of how children, young people and adults might receive an autism assessment. Additionally, building on the 2021/2022 investment of £13 million [$16M], last year (2022/2023) we invested £2.5 million[$3.1M] to improve autism diagnostic pathways.

"This year (2023/2024), £4.2 million [$5.3M] is available to improve services for autistic children and young people.”


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