Autism care standards need to be improved, says Nice

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence pushes for consistent treatment across England.

The quality of care for people with autism is poor and varied across England, health leaders have warned.

There is a real variation in the type and quality of care that people receive and many patients often have other conditions that go undiagnosed, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in a report on autism, the developmental condition which affects the way the brain processes information. It can lead to life-long problems and difficulties with social interaction, impaired language and communication skills.

Nice has called for clearer standards to ensure consistent treatment across the country. As part of a new set of proposed guidelines, Nice states that people who are referred to autism specialists should receive a diagnostic assessment within three months.

Jonathan Green, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Manchester, who helped to develop the new set of standards, claimed that poor, inconsistent care for autism patients could have “lasting effects on both the person and their families or carers”. There were many “key areas needing improvement”, he said.

Prof Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at Nice, said new guidelines would allow doctors to deliver “the very best care and support” for patients.

“People with autism can find everyday life challenging and confusing, and often have symptoms or aspects of other conditions that go undiagnosed,” she said. “This quality standard outlines how to deliver the very best care and support for adults and children with the condition.”

Mark Lever, the chief executive of the National Autistic Society, claimed that speeding up the diagnosis process would allow sufferers to receive the right support. He said: “People with autism have campaigned long and hard for their needs to be addressed when professionals are designing support and services; measuring progress against this standard will help to ensure that this happens.”

About one in 100 people in England suffer from an autistic spectrum disorder, according to the NHS Choices website.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, it can affect sufferers in many different ways. While some are able to live independently, others may suffer from severe learning disabilities and need specialist support throughout their lives.

Although there is evidence to suggest that genetic factors as well as physical factors are responsible for some forms of autism, scientists have been unable to establish the causes of the condition.

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