An open letter to Rishi Sunak MP – NAS

An open letter to Rishi Sunak MP: Invest now to end the autism diagnosis crisis.

The National Autistic Society wrote to Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, ahead of his Spring Statement on Wednesday to tell him he must end the autism diagnosis crisis, by providing the NHS with long-term funding for diagnosis services across the country.

Here is our letter…

Friday 18 March 2022

Dear Chancellor of the Exchequer,

Re: Invest now to end the autism diagnosis crisis

The latest NHS figures suggest that 88,000 people in England are waiting for an autism diagnosis assessment. This is a huge number and it is increasing.

A diagnosis can be life-changing and is vital to getting help and support. But without proper long-term funding for diagnosis services across the country, we are worried that many adults, children and young people will still have to wait months or even years for a diagnosis. In lots of cases, that will also mean struggling without support at school, work or home.

NICE guidance is clear – no one should wait longer than three months between being referred and first being seen. Yet far too many of the 88,000 people currently on the list will wait much longer. The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly made this worse but the autism diagnosis crisis long precedes this – and it’s been stopping autistic people getting timely support for many years.

The Government can end the crisis. In its recent National strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026 the Government commits to “making demonstrable progress on reducing diagnosis waiting times”. In the first year of the strategy, the Government has provided funding test new diagnosis pathways. Over the next four years of the strategy, rolling out these new pathways will need more investment. Without this, the Government won’t be able to honour its promise. The number of people waiting for an autism assessment will keep on growing and more people will be pushed to crisis.

You have the opportunity to end the autism diagnosis crisis in your Spring Statement, by allocating the urgent funding that the NHS in England needs to both increase the number of assessments carried out and tackle the backlog. No one should have to wait years for a life-changing autism diagnosis.

Thank you for reading this letter. We, the many thousands of people across England waiting for an autism diagnosis, and their families, look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Stevens
Chief Executive
National Autistic Society

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