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Monday, 04 July 2016

Call for immediate action on autism training for NHS medical staff

Written by The Press Association

The NHS should train medics to prevent autistic people from feeling they get inadequate treatment, an inquiry has found.

The Westminster Commission on Autism called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to remind clinical commissioning groups of obligations to ensure staff have the skills to support autistic people.

An estimated 700,000 people live with the condition in the UK and the Autism Act should guarantee them awareness in the health service, the study says.

Barry Sheerman (pictured), the MP for Huddersfield who founded the inquiry and has an autistic grandson, said: "Our health professionals are committed and well-intentioned.

"However, despite the Autism Act, many still have had no autism training whatsoever nor are supported in consulting with autistic patients. This must change now."

He also called for annual health checks and for NHS England to appointed a national clinical director for autism.

The commission's study, published in Parliament on Monday, included a survey of almost 900 autistic people, parents and professionals.

Nearly three quarters of respondents felt autistic people receive "worse" or "much worse" treatment than others.

A similar number said medics "rarely" or "never" understand autism and its affects on physical and mental health and 70% of respondents cited training as the top priority to improve access to healthcare.

Craig Kennady, a commission member with autism, said he left A&E while experiencing breathing difficulties because a misunderstanding with a nurse left him "distressed".

The 32-year-old from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, said: "Every minute that passed by I had flashes of losing my life and not being able to support my wife and my children."

The UK does not have mortality figures for autistic people but a study suggests they die 16 years earlier in Sweden.

The report also calls for GPs to flag up autistic patients so they can be added to an anonymous national register, which could be used to calculate UK mortality statistics.

A Department of Health spokesman said it has been working with the Royal College of General Practitioners to improve GPs' understanding of autism.

He added: "We have made monumental strides towards improving the lives of people with autism in this country and are determined to make further progress.

"We are working alongside people with autism, and their carers, to make sure they have access to healthcare with adjustments made for their conditions."

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