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February 2011



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Article Date: 28 Jan 2011

The NHS needs to improve how it diagnoses autism in children and teenagers if it is to cope with the increasing demand on services, says new draft guidance out today (Friday 28 January).

At least 1 in 100 children under the age of three years has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, levels of understanding among healthcare professionals vary greatly across the UK. ASD can be difficult to correctly diagnose as there are lots of possible signs and symptoms, as well as coexisting conditions with similar features, such as intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

In its draft clinical guideline, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) calls for healthcare professionals in the NHS to work closer together, as well as to improve how they engage with schools, social care, the voluntary sector and other key services which can offer useful insight into this condition. This is to ensure that children and teenagers with possible ASD, as well as their parents or carers, receive the appropriate care and support they need.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said: “A correct diagnosis of autism can bring a profound sense of relief to some children and young people from what can be an intense feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. It can also help them and their families or carers to get support from education, health services and voluntary organisations and make contact with others with similar experiences.

“Our draft recommendations outline the best ways that healthcare professionals can recognise the possible signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in children and young people, when they should consider referring them to a specialist team, and how they should then be diagnosed.”

In its draft clinical guideline, NICE advises that:

– A local ASD strategy group should be formed, with representation from child health and mental health services, education, social care, the voluntary sector and parents or carers of children with ASD.

– A multi-professional team should lead the referral and diagnosis of individuals with possible ASD; including a paediatrician, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a speech and language therapist, a clinical or educational psychologist, and an occupational therapist. The ASD Team should undertake the diagnostic assessments where appropriate and advise healthcare professionals about referrals.

– Every child or young person who is to undergo a diagnostic assessment of ASD should have an appointed case coordinator from the ASD Team who will be their single point of contact and signpost them, and their parents/carers, to appropriate services and support.

– Healthcare professionals should always consider the possibility that the child/young person may have another condition with similar features to ASD. If an alternative diagnosis is suspected, they should undertake the appropriate assessments and referrals.

– Following diagnosis, the ASD Team should create a profile of the child or young person, detailing their strengths, skills, impairments and needs. This will support their education, communication, behavioural, emotional and family needs. With consent from the parent or carer, the profile should also be shared directly with relevant services, e.g. a school visit by a team member.

Dr Macbeth added: “We are inviting anyone who has experience with autism, including healthcare professionals, charities and members of the public, to comment on our draft recommendations via one of our registered stakeholders. In particular, we are very keen to hear from young people or carers of young people to get their thoughts on how our draft recommendations could affect them. This is so that we can ensure the final version of our clinical guideline is of greatest benefit to the NHS and importantly to those who live with this condition.”

The consultation deadline is Friday 25 March 2011. NICE then hopes to publish its final clinical guideline in September 2011. Once published, the recommendations will represent best clinical practice for the NHS.

Read in Full: http://www.medilexicon.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=215087

Have Your Say ...

Have your say on new guidelines to improve NHS services for under-18s with autism

The National Autistic Society (NAS) has today warmly welcomed the publication of a draft guideline from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) on improvements to NHS autism diagnostic services for under-18s in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

These include vital proposals on improving diagnosis and post-diagnostic support, such as appointing a case coordinator for each young person and their family as single point of contact who will signpost them to appropriate services; and creating a profile of each young person who has a diagnosis, outlining their needs.

NAS Chief Executive, Mark Lever, said:

Children with autism are often disadvantaged in accessing services as their condition is not properly recognised. Too often we hear from families who are sent from pillar to post whilst seeking a diagnosis, or who find themselves outlining their experiences over and over again to different professionals. The longer they have to wait, the longer it takes for them to get the right support in place, which can have a negative impact on the whole family and lead to more costly services and support being required later in life.

Once published, I hope that the final clinical guideline will bring about a more consistent approach to referral and diagnosis and recommend comprehensive training for professionals involved. This is something families have long been calling for. We strongly welcome these draft recommendations for NHS healthcare professionals and urge all young people with autism, their parents, and healthcare professionals to make their views heard.

NICE is inviting anyone with experience of autism, including professionals and members of the public, to comment on the guidelines.

Visit the NICE website to have your say before 25 March 2011.

Source: http://www.autism.org.uk/en-gb/news-and-events/news-from-the-nas/have-your-say-on-new-guidelines-to-improve-nhs-services-for-under-18s-with-autism.aspx

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