Proposals to reduce the number of autism diagnoses have been considered as the number of nurses providing specialist care dwindles.
A meeting of the South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust on 11 May described a strain on services, with children waiting as long as 10 months for a diagnosis.
The restriction of diagnoses to only the most severe cases was suggested as the trust is currently getting double the level of expected demand for autism assessments – around 25 per week.
The trust is meant to carry out 750 assessments each year.
At the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) Children and Young People’s Nursing conference, delegates discussed the fall in the number of learning disability nurses with the number of posts having shrunk by a third since 2010.
Professional lead Fiona Smith said: ‘Children with autism are being severely let down by the sheer lack of support available to them.
‘Nursing staff across health services have a huge role to play in helping children with autism and their families. We need the staff and the training in order to provide the care that is so vitally needed.’
Following a letter from the National Autistic Society imploring consideration for the children who will go without care locally, the
South West London trust promised it had yet to make a decision on changes to diagnosis policy.
They said: ‘We absolutely recognise the concerns of families of children with a neuro-developmental condition and the groups
who support them.
‘Any potential changes to the service would require engagement with stakeholders. We are fully committed to talking to local people before reaching any conclusions on the way forward.’
Around one in every 100 children in the UK has autism spectrum disorder.