The British Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, has recently committed to including autism in plans for mandatory training for healthcare staff during a Parliamentary debate.
This is a very welcome move that could mean that all NHS staff have the training they need to support autistic people, finally living up to duties in the Autism Act in England.
The debate was triggered by a petition started by Paula McGowan, whose 18-year-old son Oliver died after a reaction to anti-psychotic drugs.
On October 22, in a debate in the British Parliament, the Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage MP, committed to including autism in plans for future mandatory training for healthcare staff. “It would be a missed opportunity if we did not consider in our consultation the training requirements of staff to better support autistic people as well those with learning disabilities”, she claimed.
The consultation will start in 2019. The Government’s final plans for the training will be published by the summer, followed by regulations which could be introduced by the end of the year.
Autism-Europe’s member, the National Autistic Society (NAS), welcomed this move that is in line with the provisions foreseen in the Autism Act. The NAS backed McGowan’s campaign because it highlights the unacceptable health inequalities autistic people face.
Despite requirements in the Autism Act statutory guidance that all health and care staff have appropriate autism training, this training does not happen enough in practice – with serious consequences. According to Public Health England, just 17% of areas report having an autism training plan for all health and care staff, and 10% have no plan at all. The training programme that Paula and the 50,000 people who signed her petition have been calling for could end this unacceptable situation.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the NAS, said: “This is an important commitment from the Minister, which has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of autistic people.
“This is a direct result of Paula McGowan’s tireless campaigning, in memory of her son Oliver, including her petition which gained over 50,000 signatures. We are proud to support Paula’s campaign and will continue to work with her to make sure the Government honours its commitment.
“Many autistic people continue to have much worse physical and mental health than the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early. Making sure that all healthcare staff understand autism, and the often simple changes that can help autistic people, is an important step to tackling this unacceptable health inequality – and creating a society that works for autistic people.”
Follow Paula McGowan on Twitter and the social media campaign #Oliverscampaign