NHS services in England’s South West are endangering Autistic children

Today, I came across an article by The Guardian that raises a life-threatening issue. It seems that due to a 350% increase in referrals for autism diagnosis amongst children since the pandemic, NHS managers have moved the goal posts and added extra criteria to meet before a child can be referred. Unless a child meets these criteria, they will not have access to diagnosis, with the irony being that early diagnosis could stop them from meeting this criteria; which indicates an extreme level of suffering to be required before getting the admittedly already pitiful support that is available.

Let’s look at the criteria, as discussed on the Sirona Website:

Who can be referred?
Children and young people meeting the following referral criteria can be referred :

Children and young people whose education placement is breaking down despite appropriate support (including those who are NEET – not in education, employment, or training – and those at risk of permanent exclusion, transfer, or long period of school refusal). This may include children and young people who need an Autism diagnosis to access the required specialist provision.  
Children and young people whose family unit is at risk of breakdown despite support from appropriate agencies (parents/carer and social care are unable to meet the children and young person’s needs, leading to risk of child protection proceedings and/or child needing alternative placement). This can also include children whose adoption is at risk of breaking down.
Children and young people in care or on a child protection plan for whom an assessment is needed (e.g., to inform placement planning). 
Children and young people who are open to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) with severe and enduring mental health difficulties (i.e., high risk to self or others) where an autism diagnostic assessment is required to support their formulation and care. Or children who are not open to CAMHS but are presenting with a serious risk to self or others (e.g., risk of exploitation, significant self-harm, dangerous levels of aggression towards others). 
Children and young people who are involved with youth offending services and/or are engaged in repeated offending behaviours. 
Children with very low levels of communication where the difficulties are likely to be associated with autism (usually Early Years)

This means that we are expected to wait until a child or young person is already in crisis before they will even refer them for diagnosis. It’s tantamount to negligence and threatens the wellbeing of a demographic that is already significantly more likely to die by suicide.

People on Twitter are also speaking out against these unethical criteria.

Tweets like this highlight the fatigue so many of us feel from trying to make sure Autistic people are supported.

What are we supposed to do when those who are supposed to support us only choose to do it when they are given no other choice? How do we fight back against the brazen demonstration of how inconvenient our existence is considered?

Autistic children and young people will end up in crisis and maybe even die due to rules like these.

This is not ethical, and it is a failure to ensure reasonable adjustments. It is an overt indicator that equality laws can be broken when it’s too inconvenient to follow them. The NHS needs to put a stop to this before more lives are lost.

We are Autistic, and we deserve to be consulted before such inhuman criteria are created.

For further reading about the failure of the NHS to support and protect Autistic people, please check out these articles:

CAMHS nearly killed me, and it’s not okay.

CAMHS in crisis: The systemic failing of Autistic people

Autistics Incarcerated: The dark underbelly of the NHS

Here is a petition to reverse these criteria changes

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