Waiting time target for autism patients 'must be introduced'
9 March 2019, 06:21 | Updated: 9 March 2019, 06:24
The Scottish Government should introduce a three-month waiting time target for autism patients, according to the Scottish Conservatives.
The party wants an introduction of a target from referral to first appointment for assessment, saying delays in a diagnosis can be traumatic for patients and their families.
In collaboration with the National Autistic Society Scotland (NAS), they are also calling for diagnosis waiting times to be recorded, published and monitored in every area.
A national audit to look at the benefits of faster diagnosis forms another part of their proposals.
Tory public health and equalities spokeswoman Annie Wells said Scotland should follow what is "already in place in the rest of the UK".
She said: "The autism diagnosis process is currently failing patients - the SNP must introduce a three-month waiting time target and take direct action to tackling delays in autism diagnosis.
"Having worked closely with the National Autistic Society, it is clear that many youngsters are missing out on vital support in their formative years.
"The SNP must record, publish and monitor autism diagnosis in every health board area, which would give a greater understanding to health professionals.
"These are all measures already in place in the rest of the UK.
"These delays in diagnosing autism cannot simply be allowed to go on and on - instead we must have a SNP Government focused on tackling this as a key mental health priority."
There are around 58,000 autistic people in Scotland, both children and adults, equating to more than one in 100 of the population.
Research from NAS indicated 42% found the current process of diagnosing autism stressful, with more than a quarter (27%) saying they had been misdiagnosed.
NAS director Nick Ward said: "Many autistic people and parents describe receiving their diagnosis as life-changing.
"It can explain why someone has always felt different, help them access vital support and enable them to take control of their lives.
"We know that far too many autistic people have to wait many months, sometimes even years, for a diagnosis because of inadequate and overstretched services where they live."
He added: "These long waits can often be traumatic for people who are desperate for help and at risk of developing mental health problems.
"We hope all the political parties will support the Scottish Conservatives' call for a waiting time standard from referral to assessment of autism to be introduced.
"We believe this is an important step towards ensuring autistic people right across Scotland can access the support they need."