Breaking news.

  • Over 30 MPs debate issues surrounding autism diagnosis in Parliament
  • Minister confirms that autism diagnosis waiting times will be recorded and published
  • This was the main call of our Autism diagnosis crisis campaign and is a big win for our campaigners, autistic people and their families

Today in Parliament, during a debate on autism diagnosis waiting times, Health Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, announced that autism diagnosis waiting times in England would be recorded from April next year.

The debate was tabled by Bambos Charalambous, a new MP who was invited to an I’m One hustings during the recent general election by The National Autistic Society Enfield Branch. During the hustings, he was struck by the experiences of long waits for a diagnosis and committed to raise the issue in Parliament if elected. 

This activity continued the action set out by our Autism diagnosis crisis campaign, which our charity launched in August 2015. It called on Government and NHS England to take action now to address long waits. Almost 12,000 people signed our letter to the Health Secretary and the Chief Executive of NHS England.

Over 30 MPs attended this important debate on 13 September. This was so many that the time each was able to speak had to be limited to three minutes and many didn’t get to speak. The MPs used those three minutes to highlight experiences of their local constituents. We had asked our campaigners to contact their MPs and the turnout shows that many did. One other new MP, Paul Williams, told the room that he had asked for people’s experiences on Twitter and over 500 people responded!

Many other MPs who have campaigned on autism over several years also spoke. The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, highlighted how important it is to record diagnosis waiting times and hold local areas to account. Meanwhile, Norman Lamb MP called for the waiting times standards for mental health that he had introduced when he was a minister, to be extended to autism diagnosis.

After hearing all the MPs, it was time for the new Minister, Jackie Doyle-Price to say what the Government would do. The Government has previously said that it expects areas to meet NICE guidelines that no one should wait longer than three months between being referred for a diagnosis and being seen. The Minister said, “It is our ambition for people to have a timely autism diagnosis but the cases that hon. Members have raised today make it clear that the standards that families deserve and have a right to expect have not been met.”

Having listened to MPs say how important measuring diagnosis waiting times, the Minister announced:

On the issue of data, many Members wished to know when the autism data will be published. Our intention is that the data will start to be collected as of April next year with a view to publication in 2019. That is hugely important because that will enable us to see which local areas are doing the job and which are not.

This is the first time that a Minister has committed to this to Parliament and it is a big success in our campaign to help reduce diagnosis waiting times. Today’s announcement is something we can all celebrate!

Collecting data is just one part of the job. Once we finally have a clear picture of how long people are waiting, we will push for local areas to be accountable for their waiting times and to make sure they have all the resources they need locally. Today’s news is not the end; but it is a big step forward.

You can watch the debate in full on Parliament’s website.

If you are seeking advice on diagnosis for yourself or someone you know, see our page on diagnosis.