Improve service access for autistic people, urges NHS

Providers and commissioners of mental health services must make them more accessible to people with a learning disability or autism, the NHS Confederation has urged.
People with autism and learning disabilities can suffer a ‘double whammy’ of setbacks if they need mental health support, the organisation said, because not only can they have higher mental health needs but they also frequently find it more difficult to access the services designed to help them. (Article from Public
Among the recommendations made in the ‘Equally accessible?’ report, launched at the Mental Health Network (MHN) annual conference – at which care services minister Norman Lamb is speaking – are that health checks at GPs should include a mental health assessment as a matter of routine and that appointment times and duration (and the format of inpatient services) should be adjusted to meet the needs of people with autism or a learning disability, including how they cope in unfamiliar environments. Also, the report said, information about mental health services should be made available in a variety of accessible and easy to read formats, including large print.Interim director of the Mental Health Network Paddy Cooney said: “The law is already perfectly clear on this. Public sector bodies are legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments to make sure their services are as accessible and effective for people with any protected characteristic, including learning disabilities or autism. But our researchers found that while there are some excellent examples of where mental health services are helping people with a learning disability or autism, these are not yet common across England.”

He went on: “It is the 21st century and with today’s technology, we can share information and good practice in a split second. What we must do is make sure that the best practice, which currently exists in pockets of England, becomes standard across the country. No matter where a person with autism or a learning disability lives – whether it’s Cornwall or Cumbria – they need to know they are guaranteed the same level of access to mental health services as everyone else in their community.”

Southwark Carers will be at the Learning Disabilities Providers Fair today at Cambridge House, 1 Addington Square, Camberwell SE5 0HF, from 11am-2pm today.

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