NHS logoThe Government has today published its proposals to introduce mandatory autism and learning disability training to all health and care staff in England. This is a very welcome move that could mean that all NHS staff have the training they need to support autistic people, finally living up to duties in the Autism Act.

The Government has launched an eight-week consultation on their plans and is seeking the views of autistic people, their families, charities and professionals, including health and care staff.

Tell the Government what you think

Background

The proposals honour a commitment made by the Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, back in November 2018, during a debate in Parliament. The debate was organised in response to a petition started by Paula McGowan, following the tragic death of her son Oliver in November 2016. Thousands of autistic people and their families backed this petition, along with organisations like our charity.

Autistic people continue to face unacceptable health inequalities. 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. 

But to have the impact that we all want, the legal requirements that the Government has published must be enforced and monitored.

According to a 2016 Public Health England survey, just 17% of areas report having an autism training plan for all health and care staff, and 10% 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.

We will be responding to this important consultation and we hope that as many autistic people and their families as possible have their say as well. The consultation is open until 12 April.

Commentary

Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “This new mandatory autism training for all health and care staff in England could improve the health or even save the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic people.
 
"Too often doctors, nurses and other professionals don’t understand how autistic people communicate or how bright lights or noisy places can stop people getting the care they need. As a result people sometimes don’t get health treatments they desperately need or get the wrong treatments or support. 
 
"This public consultation is an important step towards ending the health inequalities autistic people face, finally living up to the duties in the Autism Act. It is the result of tireless efforts by campaigners like Paula McGowan, whose autistic son tragically died in hospitals in 2016. We pay tribute to her campaign for mandatory training. 
 
"The training will only work if it's shaped by the experiences of autistic people and their families, so we're pleased that the Government is consulting. We encourage as many autistic people and families to respond as possible."

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage, said: “It’s simply unacceptable that the lives of autistic people or those with a learning disability are being cut short in part because of barriers in accessing healthcare that most of us take for granted.

“Our plans to introduce mandatory training for all relevant health and care staff will help them to ensure more people receive the safe, compassionate and informed care that they are entitled to.”

Dame Cheryl Gillan, MP, said: “As chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, I welcome this initiative as it is an ambition that all public facing staff will understand and be able to help people with a learning disability or, in particular, autism. I would encourage people to contribute to this excellent consultation.”

Tell the Government what you think