It is vital that people with suspected autism are able to get swift and effective diagnosis, as this helps people to understand and manage their condition better and enables them to access the support and services they need.
The National Autistic Society have recently emphasised that delays in diagnosis can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety and depression, and put additional strain on families who already need support.
It is very concerning, therefore, that the NAS’s ‘Diagnosis Crisis’ campaign has found that many people – including children – are currently waiting far too long to receive an autism diagnosis. I have received many emails from people across the country telling me that they are waiting too long. NAS is also calling for NHS England to collect, publish and monitor key information on how long people are waiting for diagnosis, as well as implementing a maximum three-month wait for a diagnostic assessment.
It is clear from the 11,600 supporters that signed the NAS’s open letter to the Health Secretary and the Chief Executive of NHS England that there is also real public concern about delays in autism diagnosis.
I hope therefore that the government listens to these concerns and redouble efforts to improve diagnosis and support for people with autism. The previous Labour government made some real progress on this by introducing the first ever autism strategy but it is clear that more needs to be done to build on and implement this, in particular to prevent people experiencing unnecessary mental health problems.
I will continue to follow this issue closely both as a constituency MP and as the Shadow Minister for Mental Health and press the government to do more to improve autism diagnosis and support.