NHS England have said today that 'autism and learning disability' will be a clinical priority in their upcoming ten-year plan to improve health services in England (this is often called the ‘long term plan’). 

This is fantastic news for autistic people and families across England - and has the potential to make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of lives.

As first reported by the Health Service Journal (note, this is behind a paywall), over the coming months, NHS England will be engaging with organisations, professionals and individuals to identify the key issues within each of the four priority areas announced so far.

This is a huge chance for the National Autistic Society, autistic people, and their families. Together we can help the NHS make sure that people can get a timely diagnosis and post-diagnostic support, help for mental health problems and good care from doctors, dentists and other clinicians who understand autism. We will be doing everything we can to make sure that the NHS understands what does and doesn’t work for autistic people so we can make the whole system work better. 

We will update our website with more information when we have it.

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: "This is fantastic news. Hundreds of thousands of autistic people and their families will be pleased to hear that their health and wellbeing will be a key priority for NHS England over the next 10 years. 

"More than 1 in 100 people in England are autistic and they need support from health and care services, like GPs, pharmacies and hospitals, throughout their lives. 

"But as we and our supporters have been saying for years, far too many autistic people wait for years to get a diagnosis through the NHS and to get the care and support they need. Many autistic people continue to have significantly worse physical and mental health than the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early. 

"Today’s announcement is a potential game changer. It will mean that autism is a core part of the NHS’ future strategy and that care can be shaped around autistic people’s often hidden needs. We look forward to working with NHS England to make sure this works for autistic people and their families."