Author Topic: Health | Commons debates  (Read 2303 times)

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Offline Fido

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Health | Commons debates
« on: December 29, 2010, 05:00:20 pm »
Health | Commons debates
21 December 2010, 3:07 pm

May I convey my compliments of the season to all Members, and indeed to the staff of the House, who work so hard for all of us?

The reason for my contribution today is my long-standing commitment to the cause of raising the profile and interests of all children and adults who suffer from the lifelong conditions of autism, autism spectrum disorders and Asperger's syndrome. I speak as a parent of a child on the spectrum, and as treasurer of the all-party group on autism.

I wish to urge the Government to refer autism to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence as a key topic for a NICE quality standard, which would cover diagnosis, post-diagnostic support and support for those with co-occurring mental health problems. It is vital that at the stage when commissioning is handed over to GP consortiums, a national quality standard applies to help local commissioners act appropriately.

The National Autistic Society's recent "You need to know" campaign revealed some startling statistics about children with autism and about child and adolescent mental health services, which are known as CAMHS. Some 71% of children with autism have a co-occurring mental health problem, and last year one in 10 children who used CAMHS had autism-that is more than 10,000 children. However, only one in three parents of children with autism who were surveyed thought that CAMHS had helped them. The problem is that professionals, no matter how dedicated they may be, often do not have enough information and understanding when it comes to meeting the needs of children and young people with autism. It places those people at a disadvantage for treatment in the health service.

There was some excellent news last week in the publication of statutory guidance for adults with autism as a result of the Autism Act 2009, and I welcome the carefully set out guidelines, which have been the subject of proper consultation. They have been strengthened and improved through lobbying by hon. Members and other organisations with a key interest. For example, particular emphasis is placed on the need for local child and adolescent mental health services to develop agreements with adult mental health services about the transition of children with autism who use those services into adult mental health care. We hear a lot about the problems of transition, and I am glad that concrete action is being taken. That will be welcome news for many children and young adults in Swindon and elsewhere.

A further enhancement of those guidelines in the form of a quality standard, together with commissioning guidelines, will increase and improve that provision even more. It has worked elsewhere. For example, for services for children with a learning disability, the introduction of a national indicator, a vital signs indicator and an annual health check all required self-reporting on training needs by the staff in child and adolescent mental health services. By last year, that resulted in almost all CAMHS services-98%; a remarkably good statistic-reporting that they provided specialist learning disability support. However, in sad contrast, only 10% of child and adolescent mental health services reported that they provided targeted autism support.

I accept that NICE is autonomous, but the National Quality Board's prioritisation committee selects the topics for discussion and adoption as NICE quality standards, with referral by Ministers. The Government therefore have a role in being able to refer a topic for the adoption of a quality standard, which is more than a guideline because it builds on the guidelines to provide a framework for professionals. It will also help patients find their way around the system. Further, it will help NHS bodies to assess the quality of the service that they provide. That information, with evidence of best practice, will help commissioners to plan better services for the future.

I am extremely keen for those measures to be adopted at the earliest opportunity. I will revert to them as often as I have to in the new year if the message has not yet got through. I urge the Government to refer the proposals to NICE to help chart a brighter future for the treatment of children and young adults with autism in the health service.

Source: Robert Buckland's recent appearances (TheyWorkForYou)


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