£2.5m to reduce waiting lists for autism assessment

There are currently 1,750 children on the waiting list for autism assessment in Herts

There are currently 1,750 children on the waiting list for autism assessment in Herts - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Health commissioners have agreed to a £2.5m funding boost to cut the length of time that children with autism have to wait for a diagnosis in Herts.

Currently there are 1,750 children and young people waiting for an autism assessment in the county - with patients having to wait an average of 12 months before they are seen.

Increased demand also mean waiting lists are getting longer - with 98 new referrals made per month.

Now health chiefs have drawn up a £2.5m plan designed to slash the number of children waiting for assessment in Herts by 1,044, and last week the funding was agreed by a joint meeting of the CCGs in Herts and West Essex.

David Evans, managing director of the Herts Valleys CCG, said there had been an “exponential” growth in referrals for ASD (autism spectrum disorder) assessment.

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He said services had been under “considerable” pressure for the past five years, but over the past 12 months – with staff being redeployed to other areas – waiting lists had grown further.

The headquarters of Herts Valleys CCG in Hemel Hempstead

The headquarters of Herts Valleys CCG in Hemel Hempstead - Credit: Google

He highlighted national plans for autism assessments to be completed within 18 weeks of referral, and he said the plan for Herts was designed to reduce the backlog and to bring services in line with the proposed 18-week pathway.

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Sharn Elton, managing director of the East and North Hertfordshire CCG, said: “There was a huge amount of work and progress had been made during the year prior to COVID to reduce the backlog.

“COVID has delayed things and meant that the transformational work that the teams had started has been slowed down."

There are currently 650 children and young people waiting for assessment in the area covered by the East and North Herts CCG, with an average of 28 new referrals made per month.

In the area covered by Herts Valleys CCG – which includes Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans – there are currently 1,110 children waiting.

There is an average of 70 new referrals each month and waiting lists are said to be growing more quickly.

Different levels of investment will be required for each trust, with £665k to be directed toward the East and North Herts CCG area – and £1.769m toward Herts Valleys.

Clearing the backlog and reducing waiting times to ‘0’ would cost an estimated £4.6m over two years.

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