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Question for Department of Health

UIN 11039, tabled on 9 October 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps (a) his Department and (b) NHS England are taking to ensure that autism diagnosis waiting times for (i) children and (ii) adults meet National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance.

Answered on

14 October 2015

The Department has discussed with NHS England the difficulties that people on the autistic spectrum can have in getting an appropriate diagnosis in a timely manner. With support from the Department, NHS England and the Association of Directors of Social Services will undertake a series of visits to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to gather information that can be shared between areas that have arrangements in place to meet National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Quality Standard 51 Autism: support for commissioning, and those that do not, with the aim of supporting more consistent provision. These NICE guidelines already recommend that there should be a maximum of three months between a referral and a first appointment for a diagnostic assessment for autism. We expect the National Health Service to be working towards meeting the recommendations.

NHS England has also been working with the Health and Social Care Information Centre to develop the Mental Health Minimum Data Set. This will include provision for the diagnosis of autism to be recorded. This mandatory data set will, for the first time, provide data about diagnosis rates. The data will be published and available for everyone to use to support and develop services. NHS England has a commitment, over the next five years, to improve waiting times and this data will be invaluable for this. Information on average waiting times for autistic diagnosis in each clinical commissioning group area is not collected centrally.

The Department issued new statutory guidance in March this year for local authorities and NHS organisations to support the continued implementation of the 2010 Autism Strategy, as refreshed by its 2014 Think Autism update. This guidance sets out what people seeking an autism diagnosis can expect from local authorities and NHS bodies including general practitioners.

We are due to consult on how we set the mandate to NHS England prior to publication of the mandate itself. The mandate will be published following the Government’s Spending Review which is due to complete on 25 November.