The accountable officer for Shropshire's Clinical Commissioning Groups, David Evans, said in a report thatt autism diagnosis waiting times for under-25s would be brought below one year by July next year and be down to 18 weeks within “18 to 24 months”.
He told the county-wide Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee that the service required “specialist practitioners” to provide it and the system had a “capacity problem”, meaning change would take time.
Bee U, the county’s emotional health and wellbeing service for children and young people, has been running since 2017. Commissioned by the county’s CCGs, it is delivered by the Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
At a meeting of the committee last week, MPFT Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Care Group manager Cathy Riley said there was a “lack of clarity” over autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis when the service was first commissioned. Mr Evans’s report said that – unlike attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis – autistic-spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis “was never commissioned clearly as part of the new tender”.
In August, the CCGs agreed to fund an ASD diagnosis service, and recruitment is underway.
Mr Evans said that long waiting lists have been a problem “for some considerable time”.
“We are now investing additional monies to get the waiting list down to 18 weeks,” he said.
“I have to say, though, with the best will in the world, because it is a specialised service and you need specialist practitioners to do it, it probably wouldn’t matter how much money we invested now; it’s a capacity problem around getting people to deliver that service.
“Logistically, it’s going to take time to get it down. Eighteen months to two years, I think, is probably longer than we would like, but I think we are being realistic about our ability and the providers’ ability to get it down within that timescale.
“That, clearly, does mean that there will be some children and young people who are waiting longer than we would like them to, and I accept that.”