Oliver and Paula

The Government last year committed to including autism in plans for mandatory training for healthcare staff. This welcome move followed concerted campaigning from many autistic people and families, most notably Paula McGowan, whose son Oliver tragically died in November 2016.

Paula believes his death could have been prevented if doctors and nurses had understood the adjustments he needed for his autism and learning disabilities.

We supported Paula’s campaign because it highlighted the unacceptable health inequalities autistic people face. Despite requirements in the Autism Act statutory guidance that all health and care staff have appropriate autism training, this training does not happen enough in practice – with serious consequences. According to a 2016 Public Health England survey, just 17 per cent of areas report having an autism training plan for all health and care staff, and 10 per cent have no plan at all. We believe that the training programme that Paula and the 50,000 people who signed her petition have been calling for could end this unacceptable situation.

Paula’s campaign has a new website and you can follow Paula on Twitter. She recently moved to Australia with her husband but continues to actively campaign for all NHS staff to have the understanding about autism and learning disability they need.

The Government has committed to consulting on its plans to roll out mandatory training in early 2019. We will update our website when we have more information about this.

Our thoughts

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society said:

We are proud to support Paula’s campaign and will continue to work with her to make sure the Government honours its commitment to training healthcare staff.

“Many autistic people continue to have much worse physical and mental health than the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early. Making sure that all healthcare staff understand autism, and the often simple changes that can help autistic people, is an important step to tackling this unacceptable health inequality – and creating a society that works for autistic people.”

Further information

  • Read more personal stories, showing why it’s so important that health staff understand autism
  • Read Paula and Oliver’s story on NHS England’s website