Wakefield kids waiting for autism diagnosis 'are being seen quicker' - Ofsted

The average waiting time for children needing an autism assessment is now down to 26 weeks.
The average waiting time for children needing an autism assessment is now down to 26 weeks.

Huge waiting time cuts for children needing an autism diagnosis have been recognised by Ofsted.

The watchdog has praised Wakefield Council and local NHS teams for making "sufficient progress" on the issue.

Youngsters under the age of 14 were waiting an average of two years to find out whether or not they had autism, after being referred for an assessment, in 2017.

Ofsted inspectors said then that the problem was an area of "significant weakness" and told those in charge to make changes urgently.

By contrast, families are now having to wait only six months for an assessment.

In their report, which was published on Tuesday, inspectors said that the council and health bosses at Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), had, "worked together in a committed way" to tackle the problem.

The waiting list has also come down dramatically for children under 14, from 614 in June 2017 to 57 today.

Dr Adam Sheppard, a local GP and chair of Wakefield CCG, said: "Over the last two years, Wakefield health services, the council, schools and community partners have worked tirelessly to make the significant improvements needed to autism services for local children and young people.

"It has been a priority to us all. This has involved new ways of working, learning from other areas and further development of services.

"Albeit it’s important to note that less children and young people are waiting for an assessment – one child in need of help and support is one too many.

"It’s essential we continue to make headway and this is why it will remain a priority to us for as long as needed."

Special events put on by the CCG to help give parents more information about autism and guide them through the process of diagnosis were also praised.

Families told inspectors that these had been "fantastic".

Councillor Margaret Isherwood, portfolio holder for children and young people, said: "No one working in health and care wants to see children and young people struggling to get the care and support they need.

"Our key focus is to always give them the very best start in life so they can live a long and healthy life.

"Our next step will be to work more closely with schools and health care workers to fully embed the outcomes of assessments and ensure that these are understood."

Elsewhere in the report, Ofsted suggested that there had been "minimal" changes to waits for those over the age of 14, who had been referred for an assessment. People in this group are currently waiting an average of 43 weeks.

Inspectors also said that some assessment reports were "not routinely shared" with education professionals and that some schools were "ignoring" the accompanying advice.

Local Democracy Reporting Service