Children wait 50 weeks for Autism diagnoses due to demand spike

editorial image

A spike in demand for Autism services in the Western Trust over the past number of years has resulted in children having to wait up to 50 weeks for diagnoses, new figures released by the local health authority have revealed.

Over the past number of years a ‘sustained increase’ in referrals to the Trust’s Autism services has meant that at the end of March of this year children were waiting up to 50 weeks for an assessment by an Autism consultant.

The target is 13 weeks.

But in a response to a Freedom of Information request the health authority confirmed that the longest wait was, in fact, 352 days.

The Trust has also revealed that it wasn’t meeting its target of having intervention programmes in place for children within 13 weeks of diagnoses.

As of March 31, 2017, the longest wait for an intervention was 156 days, the health authority confirmed.

“ASD Diagnostic Services for children up to 18 years is provided across the Western Trust in keeping with Regional Autistic Spectrum Disorder Network (RASDN) ‘Six Steps of Autism Care’ guidelines,” the Trust stated.

“The WHSCT ASD Service multi-disciplinary assessment team includes Clinical Psychology, Community Paediatrics, Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Autism Practitioner and Specialist Health Visitors.

“Within the WHSCT ASD Service, due to a sustained increase in referrals over this past three years we are currently assessing at 50 weeks as at March 31, 2017,” it added.

Figures released by the Trust show that there has been considerable demand for Autism services in the north west over the past six years.

There have been 1127 children diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum in the WHSCT area since the launch of its Six Steps Pathway in 2011, while 513 children were diagnosed as not having ASD during the same period.

There have been 2509 children on the waiting list in total since the Six Steps Pathway was launched.

This included those placed on the waiting list for diagnostic assessment and those placed on the waiting list for post diagnostic support and intervention.

Under the separate Adult ASD Service in the Western Trust, which has been developed over the 2012 to 2017 period, 36 adults have been diagnosed with Autism, while 48 adults did not meet the criteria for an Autism diagnosis.

The average waiting time for a diagnosis for adults in the Western Trust, meanwhile, is currently a year and a half.

“With regard to diagnostic assessment services the average wait for a client to begin assessment is currently approximately 18 months,” the Trust stated.

Between June 2012 and March 2017 there were 313 referrals to the Western Trust Adult ASD service.

This included those placed on the waiting list for diagnostic assessment and those placed on the waiting list for post diagnostic support and intervention, the local health authoiry confirmed in response to an FOI query.