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Autistic children wait up to five years for an NHS appointment

Children are having to wait up to five years for an NHS autism appointment, according to figures obtained by the Observer that lay bare the crisis in children’s mental health services.

Figures acquired under the Freedom of Information Act show that 2,835 autistic children referrals at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust have still not had a first appointment an average of 88 weeks after being referred. The longest wait at the time the response was sent in January stood at 251 weeks – nearly five years.

Meanwhile, 1,250 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) referrals at the trust have yet to have a first appointment, having waited an average of 46 weeks – and 195 weeks in the worst case.

Across 20 NHS trusts that provided figures, children with outstanding autism referrals have waited nearly six months on average for their first appointment.

Cathy Pyle’s daughter, Eva, spent 20 months waiting for an autism assessment from her local NHS child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Surrey, having already had to wait 11 months for a mental health assessment after she became increasingly distressed during her first year of secondary school, culminating in self-harm.

“The sensory aspects of her autism are really significant,” Pyle told the Observer. “So she found the crowding in the corridors, the jostling, being pushed and shoved – she found the noises really, really unbearable.”

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health, said: “The NHS does an incredible job with the resources that it has, however, long waits for treatment have a considerable impact on patients and families. It’s unacceptable that a six-month wait has become the standard for autism referrals, with many others waiting years to be seen, on the Conservatives’ watch. Waiting so long for treatment will have a detrimental impact on a child’s development.”

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Source: The Guardian, 4 April 2022


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