Dear Parents, Carers and Families,
As many of you will know we have been working hard to reduce the waiting times for autism and autism/ADHD assessments for children and young people across Cheshire East and to improve the overall pathway and support.
This message is a short update to share with you some of the improvements we have made to waiting times and the extra support that is now available, particular across Eastern Cheshire area.
During our joint inspection by Ofsted and CQC in March 2018, Inspectors found that waiting times for autism diagnosis were far too long in some parts of Cheshire East and that there were gaps in the service. This meant that children and young people were not always getting timely access to the services they needed.
Since then we have made improvements by listening to parents, carers, children and young people, along with health, social care, education and local charity experts.
We have invested more money in our autism assessment services to reduce waiting times. As a result, the waiting times for assessment have fallen, despite a large rise in referrals into the service. In October 2018 there were 478 children and young people waiting for an autism assessment in Eastern Cheshire, with the longest waiting time being 104 weeks (almost 2-years). By 19th December 2019 this has reduced to 39 children and young people waiting and the longest waiting time is 12 weeks.
We measure the waiting time for assessment based on the Guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which is from referral to the start of the multidisciplinary assessment. We know that some children and young people have then waited after the assessment to receive the formal diagnosis and we have recently increased the medical time in the services to improve this wait and overall assessment process. We are aiming for this to be reduced to a maximum of 4-weeks after the assessment has been completed.
We have also worked with local charities to bring in more support, workshops and training for children, young people and their families. This has led to a community-based programme of specialist support offering practical help and strategies on issues that parents and families said were important, such as sleep management, sensory advice, anxiety management and positive behavioural support. The programme is provided by experts and specialists in autism and has already supported over 120 families with 346 different sessions in Eastern Cheshire (based in Macclesfield) and is due to start supporting people and families across South Cheshire (based in Crewe) and Vale Royal (Northwich and Winsford). This programme links with NHS and local authority services such as Cheshire East Autism Team as well as with the valuable support provided by schools and other education settings in Cheshire East.
We hope that this helps to provide you with an update on some of the improvements we have made. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like further information.
We will also be at Space4Autism on 21st January 6.30pm-8.30pm to provide more information about this improvement journey and to answer your questions. We can also meet with you individually on this date if you have specific issues that you would like to raise with us.
Service Delivery Commissioning Manager
Integration and Redesign Team
NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group