New service aims to cut autism assessment waits in Shropshire
A new service has launched in Shropshire which aims to reduce the amount of time children have to wait for autism assessments.
Shropshire Autism Service has been launched by clinical psychologist Dr Lisa Williams to meet the needs of families in the county facing a long wait for autism assessments.
She says it has become 'normal' for children to wait years to be seen, yet this can cause some of them to develop mental health issues.
Dr Williams, who has experience of working in three autism services, said: “Autism services should be starting diagnostic assessments within three months of the referral.
"This does not tend to happen and it has become normal for children to wait years to be seen.
“During this time, some develop mental health problems and some drop-out of school, and all experience a delay in getting the help they need.
"If you speak to adults with autism, they are quite clear that timely diagnosis makes a difference.
“These children are being let down by services, and what is perhaps most disappointing, is that the waiting is often avoidable."
Health commissioners have confirmed there are 196 young patients in total on the waiting list in Shropshire and 110 in Telford & Wrekin.
Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT) raised concerns regarding the number of children waiting for autistic spectrum disorder assessments, which led to urgent meetings taking place between the trust and health commissioners.
MPFT, which provides the autism assessment service, said all relevant health and care organisations are working together to resolve the issue.
It is understood that NHS organisations are working with council colleagues and schools to find a short-term solution that gives priority to those who have waited the longest.
Health commissioners say they are committed to resolving the issue as quickly as possible, but finding a 'sustainable solution' will not be easy.
Dr Williams said the Shrewsbury-based Shropshire Autism Service was developed so that families can access a 'high-quality and reliable assessment for their child in a timely manner'.
It also offers specialist interventions and therapies for children with autism to help them lead happy lives.
“Within days of launching we have already spoken to several families and have assessments lined up for the coming weeks,” Dr Williams added.
“We hope the service will help many families in Shropshire.”
Anyone who would like to talk to Dr Williams, or find out more about the Shropshire Autism Service, can visit shropshireautismservice.co.uk or call 07989 734901.