Concern over diagnosis of childhood autism

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From: John Furlong, Arthurs Avenue, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

THE ability of North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (NYYPCT) to fund the diagnosis of autism in children in North Yorkshire is a cause of great concern. NYYPCT has allowed a patchwork service to develop throughout the county.

The NHS has declared the excessively lengthy waiting times for a diagnosis in Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale a Serious Incident. Forty one children have had to wait between two and two and a half years for a diagnosis.

There is currently no diagnostic service for children over five in Hambleton and Richmondshire and no service for children over seven in Harrogate. This may be having a disproportionate affect on girls as diagnosis tends to occur later.

NYYPCT has admitted children and their families are missing out on targeted, co-ordinated help and may be missing out on financial and practical support too.

This matters because the earlier the diagnosis the better the chances of a child receiving appropriate support, and the more effective that support will be. A diagnosis can bring relief and reassurance to a child and family as well as signposting to other much needed services.

On a broader level, if a person has a diagnosable condition, is it not a human right that, if sought, a diagnosis should be available? These developments come at a time when the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published guidance on improving recognition, referral and diagnosis of children and young people with autism to enable quicker access to support services.

When will the PCT put in place funding to provide a comprehensive and responsive diagnostic service in North Yorkshire?