Today, the Westminster Commission on Autism, chaired by Barry Sheerman MP, released a report into health inequality faced by autistic people. Having taken evidence from a wide range of people, including our charity, autistic people, and their families and carers, it makes a number of recommendations to improve the NHS for autistic people in England.
It highlights key issues facing autistic people, including:
- whether health professionals have had enough training
- whether inspections of health services meet the needs of autistic people
- whether the NHS knows enough about autistic people through the data it collects.
It raises concerns that autistic people miss out on getting the support they need from the NHS and that this can have bad consequences. To tackle this, it makes six recommendations:
- NHS England should create new training resources for health professionals
- the Care Quality Commission should add new questions about autism to its inspections
- GPs should record if someone is autistic on their health records
- autistic people should be invited to yearly health checks
- NHS England should appoint a National Clinical Director for autism
- NHS England should launch an Autism and Health Innovation Fund to develop tools to help autistic people use the health system.
Our charity welcomes these recommendations and has long campaigned for more autism understanding, and better leadership on autism in the NHS in England.
Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at The National Autistic Society, said, "Today’s report raises concerns that many autistic people are struggling to access essential health care. This is unacceptable. The Government and NHS England must reassure the 700,000 autistic people in the UK, and their families, that this is being taken seriously and will be addressed.
The findings indicate that the problem is in large part due to professionals being unable to understand autism and the different ways that other conditions, like depression or epilepsy, can manifest in autistic people.
"The report puts forward six welcome recommendations, including calling on NHS England to create new training for health professionals and improving data collection so care can be tailored to individual needs.
“We urge the Government and NHS England to consider the recommendations carefully and take action so autistic people start receiving the health care they need."
Find out about the training and consultancy services about autism we offer for health professionals and others.