‘Children facing up to 5-year NHS waiting list for autism appointments’

An Observer investigation last month discovered some children are waiting up to five years for an initial NHS autism consultation.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act uncovered a significant case of 2,835 autistic children who were referred to Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, waiting an average of 88 weeks; the longest case was 251 weeks (5 years). An additional 1,250 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were referred but have yet to receive an initial appointment, with an average wait time of 46 weeks.

Another record case was revealed at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, where 2,801 paediatric autism referrals have still not been seen after an average of 60 weeks; the longest ADHD referral stands at 193 weeks (nearly four years). Nationally, across the 20 NHS trusts that have published figures, children have waited an average of nearly six months to be seen by a specialist consultant. 

 Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP commented: “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.” In response, a government health spokesperson said: “We know how vital it is for children to have timely diagnosis for autism and ADHD and we’re working to improve assessment waiting times…supporting neurodivergent children is part of our Long Term NHS Plan – developing packages with charity experts and children’s services to support them throughout the diagnostic process.”

The news comes as it has been revealed the NHS currently pays £2bn a year to private hospitals to care for mental health patients because it does not have enough of its own beds, alongside an overall mental health waiting list of 2 million, according to mental health charity, Mind.

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Jamie Bryson

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May 2022
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