Nine in 10 people with suspected autism in Coventry and Warwickshire experienced a prolonged wait for a diagnosis

Waits for autism diagnoses in Coventry and Warwickshire exceeded the recommended limit for nine in 10 patients, new figures show.

Waits for autism diagnoses in Coventry and Warwickshire exceeded the recommended limit for nine in 10 patients, new figures show.

Autism is a lifelong condition which impacts how people communicate and interact with the world.

It is normally diagnosed at a young age, although some may receive a diagnosis as teenagers or into adulthood.

The National Autistic Society expressed concerns over the long waits, which it said can increase patients’ “likelihood of reaching crisis point” and called on the Government to invest in diagnosis services.

NHS Digital figures show around 5,050 adults and children suspected of having autism in Coventry and Warwickshire were waiting at least 13 weeks for a diagnosis in June. Of those, 3,560 were under 18.

This meant 89.3% of 5,655 patients registered with the NHS Coventry and Warwickshire Integrated Care Board in the month had experienced delays beyond the 13-week recommended limit.

However, it was a decrease from last year's figure, when those who were forced to wait beyond the recommended time during the same period accounted for 92.3% of all 4,135 patients.

Across England, more than 143,000 people were waiting for an autism assessment in June, around 20,000 more than last year. Of those, more than 118,000 had a referral that had been open for longer than the recommended time.

Mel Merritt, head of policy and campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said waiting lists will continue to grow unless urgent long-term funding for diagnosis services is provided.

She added: "People often can’t get the right help and support without an autism diagnosis, and long waits for diagnosis and support can leave people in a difficult situation and increase their likelihood of reaching crisis point.

"The Government must invest in diagnosis services, as set out in the national autism strategy, to reduce waiting times and ensure all autistic children, young people and adults get the support they need."

In Coventry and Warwickshire, around 845 patients seen in June had waited more than 13 weeks to get their first appointment.

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: “We know it’s vital to have a timely diagnosis of autism. NHS England recently published a national framework and operational guidance to set out how children, young people and adults can receive a timely assessment, and we’ve made £4.2 million available this year to improve services for autistic children and young people.

“We expect Integrated Care Boards and NHS Trusts to follow the clinical guidelines on autism published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and this year, we are also updating the Statutory Guidance on Autism to support the NHS and local authorities to deliver improved outcomes for autistic people.”

Sonya Gardener, Chief Operating Officer at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust said, “Following significant investment, the average waiting time for an autism assessment in Coventry and Warwickshire is now 57 weeks, which is reduced from over five years. In the last 18 months, the Trust has seen and assessed over 6,400 individuals and continues to work hard, with partners to reduce waiting lists further.

“We know that waiting can be stressful, which is why we have implemented a wide range of support services for those who are waiting for an appointment.”