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National autism register for GPNs' 'understanding'

A national autism register would help general practice nurses deliver personalised care to their patients

A national autism register would help general practice nurses (GPNs) deliver personalised care to their patients, according to new guidance from NICE.

The register would make patients on the autistic spectrum easily identifiable to healthcare professionals in general practice and, according to NICE, will help the staff to adapt their approach to suit their patient’s needs.

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For example, NICE suggests it could mean nurses can ensure children on the autistic spectrum are called for vaccinations at the beginning of surgeries when the waiting rooms are quieter and could turn down lights for those with sensory problems.

Kathryn Yates, primary care lead for the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘General practice nurses deliver care to their diverse practice populations which includes people living with autism and their families and carers.

‘A register will support GPNs and their practice staff colleagues in planning and delivering individualised care and will support improved access and services essential for people with autism. Increasing understanding and diagnosis of autism will also aid the clinical benefits of a register.’

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A Westminster Autism Commission report said this would end the statistical ‘invisibility’ of autism within the healthcare system.

‘One of the most compelling strands of evidence found in our recent healthcare inquiry, was the critical need for an indicator for autism,’ said the commission’s national strategy coordinator Emily Christou.

‘Without this, GP surgeries cannot be expected to make reasonable adjustments for patients with autism and as such patients will continue to feel that their healthcare needs are going unmet. We warmly welcome this most important NICE indicator.’

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‘Autistic spectrum disorder’ includes mild and severe forms of the condition. Differing levels in cognitive ability, sensory problems and the presence of learning disabilities can make diagnosis difficult and may lead to people being overlooked by healthcare, education and social care professionals.

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and 70% of autistic adults say they do not get enough social service support. One in three will experience a mental health problem.