Today NHS England published its Long Term Plan - stating how £20 billion will be spent on improving NHS services over the next 5-10 years. For the first time, NHS England has made improving healthcare for autistic people a top NHS priority.
A key aim in the plan is to ensure that all autistic people “live happier, healthier, longer lives”.
We're really in favour of this ambition - especially as it happens to be our vision too. We will work closely with the NHS to make it a reality.
Here are some of the commitments in the plan:
- Reduce preventable deaths. In 2016 we highlighted the appalling rates of early death in the autistic community. The Long Term Plan’s first commitment about autism is to tackle this.
- Pilot health-checks for autistic adults. We are funding the development of a health-check for autistic adults at Newcastle University. The Plan adopts our recommendation to pilot that check further. We will be working with the National Autistic Society and NHS England to prepare the NHS for its use.
- Community mental health support and suicide prevention. As part of its plans to prevent suicide, NHS England will be investing in specialist community teams to support young autistic people and rolling out designated caseworkers to help all autistic children by 2023/24. They also have plans to improve community mental health support for adults, although autistic adults aren’t explicitly mentioned.
- Reduce diagnostic waiting times for families. The National Autistic Society highlighted the long waiting times in their Why The Wait campaign. The NHS are going to test the best ways of identifying and supporting autistic children and their families during the diagnostic process. We are currently exploring programmes for supporting children and families during these periods.
- Halve the number of autistic people or people with a learning disability in inpatient care by 2023/24. NHS England also plans to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in inpatient services and to ensure more autistic people and families have access to Personal Health Budgets. The NHS will continue to run initiatives to reduce the use of antipsychotic medication and investigate deaths of people with a learning disability.
- More training and reasonable adjustments. NHS staff will receive more training on autism and learning disabilities, following a campaign by Paula McGowan. NHS England will also expect all local services to make reasonable adjustments for autistic people. A new flag will be added to electronic records in the NHS so health professionals can make adjustments for each person.
- Working with the NHS. Over the next few years NHS England will look to increase volunteering and internship opportunities for autistic people within the service.
A lot more work will be needed to deliver these commitments. We’ll continue to work closely with people across the NHS to progress these and other community priorities like adult diagnosis. If you’re interested in getting involved or hearing more, please consider joining Discover.