On 7th January, the English National Health Service (NHS) Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, launched in Liverpool the NHS Long Term Plan for the next 10 years, which includes commitments that could help to tackle inequality and improve health and care services for autistic people across the country.
Mark Lever,Chief Executive of the Autism-Europe’s member the National Autistic Society: “The NHS plan is a once in a generation opportunity to finally address the unacceptable health inequality faced by autistic people in England”.
The Plan sets out the NHS’ intention to tackle the autism diagnosis crisis, pilot annual health checks for autistic people and improve training for NHS staff. It also recommits to reducing the number of autistic people getting stuck in inpatient mental health hospitals.
Learning disabilities and autism
The NHS Long Term Plan will pilot the introduction of a specific health check for people with autism, and if successful, extend it more widely. The NHS will stop the overmedication of people with autism. NHS staff will receive information and training on supporting people with autism. The NHS will ensure all local healthcare providers are making reasonable adjustments to support people with autism.
Autism diagnosis will be included alongside work with children and young people’s mental health services to test and implement the most effective ways to reduce waiting times for specialist services. This will be a step towards timely diagnostic assessments in line with best practice guidelines. To move more care to the community, the NHS will support local systems to take greater control over managing budgets.
Local providers will take control of budgets to reduce avoidable admissions, enable shorter lengths of stay and end Out of Area placements. Increased investment in intensive, crisis and forensic community support will enable more people to receive personalised care in the community, closer to home, and reduce preventable admissions to inpatient services with a focus on improving the quality of inpatient care.
What does the National Autistic Society say?
The National Autistic Society (NAS) is “thrilled that it includes autism alongside learning disability as a clinical priority and commitments to tackle inequality and improve health and care services for autistic people across the country”.
Over the summer, the NAS and other organisations and campaigners encouraged autistic people and families to share their thoughts and experiences so the NHS knew the Plan needed to address excessive waiting times for diagnosis, poor support for mental health and insufficient understanding of what it means to be autistic.
According to the NAS, “the proposals are a promising start, but we want to see much more detail about the specific actions NHS England will take in the coming months. We will continue to push to ensure these pledges and promises are delivered”.
The NHS Long Term Plan
The NHS Long Term Plan aims at improving the quality of patient care and health outcomes. It sets out how the £20.5 billion budget settlement for the NHS announced by the Prime Minister in summer 2018, will be spent over the next 5 years. The plan focuses on building an NHS fit for the future by:
- enabling everyone to get the best start in life
- helping communities to live well
- helping people to age well
The plan has been developed in partnership with frontline health and care staff, patients and their families, including autism associations.