Almost 1,000 trapped in autism diagnosis backlog

Nearly 1,000 people in South Tyneside – mostly children – who are suspected of having autism, are trapped in a backlog waiting for an official diagnosis.
Hundreds waiting for an autism diagnosis.Hundreds waiting for an autism diagnosis.
Hundreds waiting for an autism diagnosis.

NHS Digital figures show 1,130 people suspected of having the condition in the area were waiting for an assessment after being referred by a specialist at the end of December.

Official guidance says no patient should wait longer than 13 weeks, but 945 people (84%) in South Tyneside had waited longer – a similar picture to December 2021 when 720 people had a referral, with 590 (82%) waiting for more than 13 weeks.

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Autism is a lifelong condition which impacts how people communicate and interact with the world.

The National Autistic Society (NAS) says a diagnosis is vital, and called on the Government to provide immediate funding to clear the soaring backlog.

Nationally, more than 140,000 people were estimated to be waiting for a diagnosis at the end of last year – with over 120,000 (87%) waiting more than 13 weeks.

Tim Nicholls, head of influencing and research at the NAS said: “A diagnosis is vital to getting the right help and support and many people struggle at school, work and home, or can develop mental health problems like anxiety or depression without one.

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"Without significant, long-term funding for diagnosis services across the country, many autistic people will continue to face traumatic long waits for an assessment.”

He added: "As a result, many will be left struggling without the right support.

"The Government must urgently invest in diagnosis services, as set out in the national autism strategy, and make sure that autistic children, young people, adults and their families get the support they need.

The Department for Health Social care said it is "committed to reducing delays and improving access to support".

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A spokesperson added: "We are investing £2.5m this year to ensure that patients are seen more quickly and this is on top of £74m in the first year of our national autism strategy.”

They added: “NHS England is also producing national guidance which aims to improve outcomes for autistic people throughout their diagnosis."