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NHS Autism Changes

Anna Kennedy OBE
Anna Kennedy OBE

The last couple of days I have been reading a few articles stating that children may no longer be able to get NHS referrals for assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in South West London.South West London St George’s Mental Health Trust discussed plans to no longer accept referrals for assessment and diagnosis of ASD in children at a board meeting this month. Children would only be referred if they have an additional mental health condition that requires treatment, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or depression.

The decision would affect children in Merton, Wandsworth, Richmond, Kingston and Sutton as they all fall under the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. I had to read the article again to make sure I had read it properly. Why would they make such a decision and come to this conclusion. When we visited the Dept of Health Senior Officials shared with me that autism gave them the biggest headache of all disabilities. Does this mean that by not assessing children in these local authorities their headache will go away ???

All the textbooks on autism clearly state early intervention is crucial without this intervention it will have a detrimental effect on the child, the family, the school etc. The serious risk is that the child can develop mental Health issues which can debilitate them for the rest of their life. It’s questionable whether the Trust could make this decision and I would like to think that it would not be followed through. However, if the do make this decision they shouldn’t be surprised if their neglect is met with a very STRONG reaction!

‘I have been contacted by many families and Professionals following my last post shared across social media with reference to the possible change in policy re-diagnosis in South West London. They all share my frustration about the possible devastating effects to children and their families about the possible change.
It must be understood that obtaining a diagnosis is not just being given a label. The assessment process will provide vital information which will help the child. It’s much easier for a child’s needs to be met in school if they are understood as a whole person rather than a label. It is impossible to see how a child’s education and social care needs can be adequately be met without going through a diagnostic assessment.
Lack of information leads to unmet needs and loss of potential. It can also lead to the effects like self-harm, anxiety or even suicide. Cases like this have been shared with me many times by families going through this very experience with their sons and daughters because of trying to obtain a diagnosis.
A decision by the South West London St George’s Mental Health Trust to go ahead with the proposed new policy will pull the rug from under the feet of children. Refusing to offer a diagnostic assessment is nothing short of outrageous.  I can only hope the Trust thinks carefully about any decision they may make because the lives of children are at stake.’

Anna Kennedy OBE