Autism was recently announced as a clinical priority for the NHS in England over the next ten years, alongside learning disability. We believe that this could help transform health services for autistic people in England but we need your help!

Now it’s your chance to say what you think the NHS needs to focus on to make sure this makes a difference to you.NHS England want your feedback on what actions their new Long Term Plan should include. This is a really important opportunity to make sure that their new ten-year strategy really works for autistic people and their families. We will be telling NHS England what we think needs to change, based on what autistic people have told us. But if more people join in, we will have more impact.

How you can take action

  1. You can fill out NHS England’s feedback form.

NHS England’s feedback form

When you start the form, you need to fill out some information about yourself. On the next page you need to select which ‘theme’ you want to comment on. Select ‘Clinical priorities – Learning disability and Autism’. 

There are then two questions:

  1. What more can the NHS do, working with its local partners, to ensure that people with a learning disability, autism or both are supported to live happy, healthy and independent lives in their communities?
  2. How can the NHS best improve the experiences that people with a learning disability, autism or both have with the NHS, ensuring that they are able to access the full range of services they need?

You can write up to 200 words for each answer, but you can write less if you like. We have written a list of some of the things you might want to include below. But this is your chance to say what you think is important.

You can also comment on some of the other themes in the feedback form if you want to.

Things you could include

This is a list of some of the things that the National Autistic Society thinks should be included in the NHS’ Long Term Plan. You might find these helpful when you fill out the feedback form.

What more can the NHS do, working with its local partners, to ensure that people with a learning disability, autism or both are supported to live happy, healthy and independent lives in their communities? 

  • Cut diagnosis waiting time so people can access an autism diagnosis in good time. We know this is important because we know how traumatic long waits can be. Waiting times should be monitored and used to hold local and national health services to account. Our Autism diagnosis crisis campaign is calling for this.
  • Make sure autistic people are able to get support from mental health services, if they need it. Although autism isn’t a mental health condition, autistic people tell us that mental health services don’t understand their autism or the mental health support autistic people might need. This is crucial to make sure fewer autistic people end up having to go to a mental health hospital – which is the goal of NHS England’s Transforming Care programme.
  • Make sure that GP surgeries are accessible to autistic people and that GPs know how to support people on the autism spectrum to stay in good health. We think this is important because many autistic people continue to have significantly worse physical and mental health than the general public. There is even some evidence from other countries that autistic people might die earlier than others. Autistic people need to be able to visit their GP like anyone else, to stay in good physical health. GPs need to understand how they can adapt their communication for some autistic people and think about things like offering early appointments or quieter spaces to wait. We also urge GPs to record when someone has an autism diagnosis so that they can make sure their practice is meeting the needs of autistic people.

How can the NHS best improve the experiences that people with a learning disability, autism or both have with the NHS, ensuring that they are able to access the full range of services they need?

  • Make sure that all staff in health services have had autism training and understand how they can support autistic people. Understanding autism is vital to making the right reasonable adjustments and making sure that autistic people understand the health support they are receiving. This is an important part of making sure that autistic people stay in good health. It is a requirement of health services under the Autism Act, but many autistic people tell us that it is still not happening everywhere. Things like the Hospital Passport are important and should be used more widely.
  • Make sure that all communication is accessible. This means more than just providing documents in Easy Read (which may not be appropriate for all people). All communication from the NHS should be clear and written in plain English. Importantly, health services should ask people about what format they like to receive information.