Fewer children will be eligible to get an autism diagnosis from the NHS.

Only those who meet certain criteria are able to be referred for an autism diagnosis at the NHS in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Sirona, which runs the service in the area, said it had to narrow the criteria due to a 350% increase in demand.

Some parents have launched the campaign Assess for Autism to protest the decision.

The Bristol group said it intended to launch legal proceedings against the area Integrated Care Board.

Jai Breitnauer has two autistic children and is a volunteer at Incredible Kids, a Lockleaze-based charity that supports children with additional needs.

She referred her son to the autism hub in February 2022 and received a letter that confirmed he was accepted on the waiting list.

“Because he is not in a priority group, I am unsure whether he will ever actually get an appointment for assessment,” Ms Breitnauer told BBC Radio Bristol. “He may never reach the top of the list.”

Some of the new criteria includes if they are unable to go to school or if they are already being helped by child mental health services.

“Families were not consulted”

Claire in Little Stoke has two children who already have an autism diagnosis.

She said the diagnosis was important for her son, who knew from a young age that he was “different”.

“It is the understanding of themselves that comes with it. He knew he was different, but didn’t know why,” she said. “The diagnosis gave him that explanation and allowed him to be able to use all the tools.

“Before that, people were just saying that he was naughty. That diagnosis opened people’s eyes to it,” she added.

Ms Breitnauer said it would cost her £2,000 to assess her son privately.

“That creates a two-tier system, whereby families who can afford to go down the private assessment route will then be able to access support through mainstream education,” she said.

“That might be denied to other families who cannot afford to pay £2,000 for an assessment.”

A spokesperson for Assess for Autism said: “Families were not consulted on these changes and as such, swift legal action is the only recourse we have to get this policy changed.”

Sirona said children currently being seen have waited over two years for an autism assessment.

In a statement sent to Radio Bristol, Sirona said: “We have reviewed our processes and criteria to ensure that those children with the highest needs could be seen more quickly and we will continue to work with our partners and our funders to identify ways of reducing the overall wait times for all families.”

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Related Topics

  • NHS crisis
  • NHS
  • Autism
  • Bristol

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