Autism centre opened by HRH The Countess of Wessex


Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, at the event

A pioneering centre for people with autism has been officially opened by HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO.

More than 150 people attended the opening of the Chitra Sethia Autism Centre at the Fulbourn Hospital site, part of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) on Thursday 5 September.

The Countess unveiled a plaque and was given a tour of the centre which has been made possible thanks to the Autism Research Trust (ART) and the National Autistic Society (NAS) who received a grant from the N Sethia Foundation to redevelop the existing building.


HRH The Countess of Wessex with Mr Nirmal Sethia of The N Sethia Foundation

The Autism Centre will be the new home of CPFT’s Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic. The clinic has been providing specialist diagnostic assessments for adults who may have Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism for over 10 years. Now the CLASS clinic has a dedicated home. The clinic will move to the new Autism Centre in September 2013.

The Autism Centre is also an opportunity to develop support and opportunities for local people who have autism, including family support sessions, group meetings and activities.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of CPFT’s CLASS and a trustee of ART, said: “This is a very exciting development. The new centre will provide a vital resource for adults with an autism spectrum condition and their families. By being closely linked to autism research it will also provide evidence-based standards of excellence in clinical practice.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS, said:

“We’re delighted to be a partner in this exciting new development which was made possible thanks to the generosity of The N Sethia Foundation.  Autism is a hidden condition and getting a diagnosis can be a critical milestone in enabling people to access the support they need. However, in our experience, adults wait far too long for a diagnosis, with 34% telling us in a recent survey that they’ve waited three years or more after first raising concerns.

“This new diagnostic centre will provide essential support to adults with autism and their families, and the services on offer will ensure that people with the disability achieve their ambitions and flourish.”

About the projects partners

The Autism Research Trust (ART) exists to accelerate the pace of autism research and to complement governmental funding of autism research with philanthropic funding. ART exclusively supports the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University.


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) provides mental health and specialist learning disability services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, along with children’s community services in Peterborough. CPFT employs 2,500 people across 75 sites in Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough and Fenland and is a member of Cambridge University Health Partners.


The National Autistic Society (NAS) is the UK’s leading charity for people with autism and their families.  Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible. The NAS relies on the support of its members and donors to continue its vital work for people with autism.


The N Sethia Foundation was established in the UK in 1995 and its charitable work has been centred on medical research, the promotion of youth activities and disaster relief.  Following a substantial donation, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery was opened at University College Hospital in London recently, in memory of the late Mrs Chitra Sethia, providing surgeons with the facility to train in robotic surgery.  The Foundation has also gifted the British Cardiac Research Trust for clinical trials into early detection of heart disease.

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