Autism Service Norfolk told to improve “damning” waiting times of more than a year

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich

Norfolk County Council at County Hall in Norwich - Credit: Archant

An organisation which provides diagnosis and support for autistic adults in Norfolk has been told it must act to improve on 'damning' waiting list times of 72 weeks.

Autism Service Norfolk (ASN), which provides autism diagnosis services for adults across the county, has been given six months by Norfolk County Council's Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to cut down the time people have to wait to access its services.

A report compiled for the committee has revealed the average waiting time for adults referred to the service is currently 72 weeks from the point of referral to diagnosis and 46 weeks for someone in need of priority assessment.

On Thursday, (October 10), at a HOSC meeting at Norfolk County Council, members of the committee challenged representatives from ASN to explain why the waiting times were so poor as well as what the service is doing to improve on them.

Penny Carpenter, a Conservative councillor who chaired the HOSC meeting, said: "For this service to have a 72-week waiting list is quite damning."

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Highlighting the importance of having quick access to services in times of crisis, Mathew Fulton-McAlister, a Norwich City Labour party councillor, shared his own experience of getting an autism diagnosis.

He said: "I'm someone who has been through the diagnosis process and it was quite a stressful time for me, there were several points where I considered approaching the service but for various reasons decided not to and essentially it was only in a time of crisis that I did actually take the first step.

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"I know that for a lot of people, there's still a lot of stigma [around diagnosis] and it shouldn't be there, but it is.

"At the moment, for it to be a 46 week wait at times of crisis is frankly appalling."

Catherine Hains, also from ASN said the service encouraged people to contact it if they were in crisis but currently faced staffing difficulties.

She said:"We try our hardest at the moment but it will be easier when we have full staff."

Craig Chalmers, director of community social work at adult social services, said the team would add improving crisis waiting times to its key performance indicator targets.

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