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Government to trial GP health checks for patients with autism


autism health checks


A trial of health checks in GP practices are among measures set out in the Government new Autism Strategy, alongside digital ‘flags’ in patient records and investment to reduce waiting times for diagnosis.

A total of £75m pounds of funding this year – £40m of which will be to implement goals in the NHS Long Term Plan – has been earmarked to tackle the inequalities, speed up diagnoses and provide better access to health and social care for people with autism.

Setting out the details, the Government said £10.5m of the committed funding would be for testing and putting in place the best ways to reduce diagnosis waiting times for children and young people as well as proactively identifying those on the waiting list at risk of a crisis.

As part of the strategy, NHS England will be trialling a primary care health check for autistic adults in the North East to try and identify health needs earlier.

GP practices will be taking part in the randomised trial, which aims to recruit 200 autistic adults who have not had a recent NHS health check and will be evaluated by Newcastle University.

Work as already been done to create and validate a health checklist to be used in the trial which will include a pre-appointment questionnaire about their sensory and communication needs, any reasonable adjustments needed and their general health and wellbeing.

NHS England is also developing digital ‘flags’ to be used in patient records so healthcare professionals are aware that someone is autistic and can tailor the support offered. This will be rolled out to 12 early adopter sites this year.

Some of the money will go to boosting availability of post-diagnostic support for children and adults and addressing backlogs in diagnosis made worse by the pandemic, the Government said.

And investment will provide better community support and prevent avoidable admissions of autistic people and those with a learning disability with £18.5m allocated for preventing crises and improving the quality of inpatient mental health settings

The life expectancy gap for autistic people is around 16 years on average and almost 80% of autistic adults experience mental health problems during their lifetime.

There are an estimated 700,000 autistic people in the UK.

The five-year strategy also aims to provide better access to education, more help to get into work, and prevent avoidable admissions to healthcare setting.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Improving the lives of autistic people is a priority and this new strategy, backed by almost £75m in the first year, will help us create a society that truly understands and includes autistic people in all aspects of life.

‘It will reduce diagnosis waiting times for children and adults and improve community support for autistic people. This is crucial in reducing the health inequalities they face, and the unacceptable life expectancy gap that exists today.’

READERS' COMMENTS [4]

Dr N 21 July, 2021 3:36 pm

This increasing culture of GP to check and GP to do is getting ridiculous. The profession is in manpower crisis. Construct an autism health review service by all means but why involve GPs yet again. Health Visitors manage child health reviews without GP input.

John Graham Munro 21 July, 2021 9:27 pm

Dr N——-because the G,P is ideally placed. see

Dylan Summers 22 July, 2021 10:33 am

There’s also a problem here with the range of people to whom an Autistic Spectrum Disorder diagnosis gets applied:

At one end of the scale our practice has non-verbal ASD patients who receive 24/7 residential care; at the other we have a rather large cohort of university students with an ASD diagnosis who are functioning independently and successfully.

The needs of these two cohorts do not really overlap. Hard to see what type of review would be appropriate for all.

Michael Mullineux 22 July, 2021 1:00 pm

Oh good, yet another proposed ‘check’ to join the litany of similar. No problem with capacity in General Practice, not firefighting already, so bring it on …