Lanarkshire MSP calls on SNP to help reduce autism assessment waits

A Lanarkshire MSP is calling on the Scottish Government to help reduce autism assessment waiting times in the county.

Tory Graham Simpson wants to see NHS Lanarkshire reduce their waiting list for children in need of a neurodevelopment assessment.

Mr Simpson’s call comes after he raised a local constituent’s case with Kevin Stewart, the Minister for wellbeing and social care, in the Scottish Parliament recently.

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The MSP told Lanarkshire Live: “There has been an incredible reaction following my question to Mr Stewart, which shows how seriously this issue needs to be taken.

“I am confident NHS Lanarkshire are doing everything they can to try and reduce these waiting times, but the Scottish Government needs to do more to help them tackle the backlog as soon as possible.

“Some of the stories I have received from constituents really are heartbreaking and I intend to meet with families in the coming weeks before raising this again with the Minister.”

The constituent cited, who is from East Kilbride, was recently told her son may have to wait 21 months to see a community pediatrician before joining the regional NDS waiting list for an assessment which is currently between two and three years.

The Scottish Government’s current target is for children and young people to be assessed within four weeks of the identification of need.

There are 700,000 people in the UK living with the condition.

Following his question, Mr Simpson says many other families across Lanarkshire with children facing significant delays, have contacted him.

Many reported having to wait more than four years for an assessment – ​​leaving their children unable to attend school or socialize with others.

He plans to speak with a group of parents who have got in touch about the issue to hear their own stories before requesting a meeting with the Minister to discuss this in more detail.

Mr Stewart says the Scottish Government are committed to implementing the ‘National Neurodevelopmental Specification for Children and Young People: Principles and Standards of Care,’ first published in September 2021.

The MSP told us: “This specifies service standards that all children’s services should follow to ensure that access to support is effective and consistent across Scotland.

“In addition, more than £3m was allocated to NHS boards in 2021/22 to build professional capacity in boards to support children and young people with neurodevelopmental support needs.

“We are aware that NHS Lanarkshire has appointed two waiting list coordinators and they are taking forward a validation exercise for child and adolescent mental health services and neurodevelopmental work.”

Maggs Thomson, head of health, North Lanarkshire HSCP, said the specialist children’s health services unit is currently finalizing arrangements to launch a new neurodevelopmental service for Lanarkshire.

She added: “We recognize that our waiting lists are long and, like many other health boards in Scotland, we are working on reassessing current waiting lists through a validation exercise which we hope to complete this month.

“A diagnosis is not required to access further support in an educational setting such as nursery/school.

“In line with the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act it is very clear that support should be provided based on a child or young person’s need and not on diagnosis.

“The following services may be of help in offering support while a diagnosis is awaited.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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