Children in Leeds waiting 'an eternity' for autism assessments as NHS referrals double

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The NHS cannot cope with the number of people seeking assessments for autism, ADHD and other related disorders, councillors in Leeds have been told.

Referrals to the health service for neurodiversity issues, which covers a broad range of developmental conditions and learning disabilities, have doubled since before the Covid pandemic.

It means children in particular are going years without specialist support they might be entitled to in school.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The chair of Leeds’ health scrutiny board, Councillor Andrew Scopes, said these delays would feel like “an eternity” for the young people affected.

Aire Court Community Unit, at Lingwell Grove, Middleton, which, according to Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's website, is where autism assessments take place in Leeds.Aire Court Community Unit, at Lingwell Grove, Middleton, which, according to Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's website, is where autism assessments take place in Leeds.
Aire Court Community Unit, at Lingwell Grove, Middleton, which, according to Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's website, is where autism assessments take place in Leeds.

The issue was raised at a meeting of the board on Tuesday.

Alison Kenny, from the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The world of neurodiversity is quite challenging at the moment.

“In the last few years we’ve seen a significant increase in both children and adult referrals to neurodiversity services for assessments.

“The increase is about double in the last few years. It’s meant the capacity of services we provide, across Leeds and beyond, doesn’t have the capacity to cope with that increase.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ms Kenny said there were currently “significant” shortages of staff working in mental health services, which are supposed to provide autism assessments.

This she said was contributing to the long delays.

She revealed that there were pilot programmes going on across West Yorkshire, which were examining whether people’s needs could be met without an assessment.

She added: “We are looking at what we can do differently.

“I can’t sit here and say we have the solution right now.

“There is not ringfenced funding for this. We’ve had additional resources supplied by Leeds (City Council) in the last two years, particularly to address children’s neurodiversity waiting times.

“But that’s against a picture of growing demand, so it’s not kept up with the demand.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“What I can say is there’s a significant amount of work going on to address this across the city and to raise the profile of this at a national level, to see if we can get more resources drawn into this area.”

In response, Councillor Scopes said: “It sounds like you recognise the challenge for young people.

“It affects their schooling and if the assessment comes through years later, for that child that’s an eternity.”

The widespread problems in the NHS faced by autistic people mirror similar issues in the education system.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Local authorities across the country are struggling to keep up with demand for education, health and care plans (EHCP), which parents request for special needs children to ensure they get help in school.

The council’s interim director for children and families said last week that that system is “broken”.