Autism assessment patients left waiting more than two years for referral

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request has revealed that children and adults waiting on an autism assessment are being failed with timely waits. Facing waiting times over two years, the information goes against national guidelines.


National guidelines state that the process of diagnosis should start within three months of being referred. However, after Liberal Democrat MP and former Health Minister Norman Lamb requested waiting time data the extent of the problem has come to light.

Between 2016/17 the longest waiting times included: 848 days for an adult and 799 days for a child in Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust; 528 days for an adult and 535 days for a child in the South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Similar figures from trusts across England are equally as damming.

Another worrying statistic was revealed from the FoI detailing that it could take several years to finally get an autism diagnosis. For families looking to support their children effectively to adults waiting on results the news is unsettling.

Missing Out

Due to extreme waiting times many people are being left at a disadvantage. The National Autistic Society has noted that due to waiting times many are missing out on educational, health and social support, which everyone is entitled to.

Not everyone has faced extreme waiting times according to the FoI. It appears a postcode lottery of autism diagnosis is also in place. Norman Lamb, speaking to the BBC, says: “These scandalous waiting times are happening despite clear evidence that early diagnosis and intervention can make a massive difference to people’s life chances.

“We know there can be complex cases which require several follow-up appointments with different specialists – but there is no excuse for the widespread delays we are seeing all around the country.”


In a positive turn from the disappointing waiting times, the government has pledged to start collecting and publishing waiting times. Similarly, The National Autistic Society is calling the government to take action believing a shortage of staff, funding priorities play a part in extended waiting times.

From April next year, trusts will be obliged to publishing referral waiting times with a representative from the Department of Health and Social Care in England stating: “The guidelines on autism are clear – families must start assessment within three months and we expect every part of the NHS to adhere to this.”

This push could see quicker autism diagnoses, ultimately, leading to improved understanding, support and quality of life for autistic people, their friends and family.

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