News that autism and learning disabilities will be an NHS focus over the next ten years has been welcomed by charities.
The National Autistic Society (NAS) said the measures to be taken by the NHS are “fantastic news for autistic people and families across England”.
Under the new ten-year plan, the NHS said it will engage with organisations, professional and individuals to identify key issues within these core areas.
It follows recent research which shows that people are waiting months, and sometimes even years, for a conclusive autism diagnosis in England and Wales.
Autism affects around one in every 100 people in England, with around 700,000 individuals diagnosed nationwide.
NAS says there is now an opportunity to make sure people can get a timely diagnosis and appropriate post-diagnostic support.
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “This is fantastic news. Hundreds of thousands of autistic people and their families will be pleased to hear that their health and wellbeing will be a key priority for NHS England over the next 10 years.
“As we and our supporters have been saying for years, far too many autistic people wait for years to get a diagnosis through the NHS and to get the care and support they need. Many autistic people continue to have significantly worse physical and mental health than the general public – and may even be at greater risk of dying early.
“Today’s announcement is a potential game changer. It will mean that autism is a core part of the NHS’ future strategy and that care can be shaped around autistic people’s often hidden needs. We look forward to working with NHS England to make sure this works for autistic people and their families.”