'What is the point asking for help?' Autistic people on four-year waiting lists
Waits of more than four years to get help for autism is playing havoc with people's health, a campaign group said today.
Clare Smith, from Norfolk Autism Asperger's Network (NAAN), said patients were being left "seriously depressed" while waiting for support.
Peter Mulholland, 39, from Devonshire Street, Norwich, was told last year he would have to wait for more than three years for a diagnosis and help.
"It just makes me feel like there is no point asking for help," he said.
In November this newspaper revealed that some adults were waiting more than four years to get an autism diagnosis.
The average wait, meanwhile, was around a year, according to a council report at the time.
The council said it had a "robust recovery plan" in place and specialist staff were being recruited.
But Mr Smith said the reality was far worse than the council figures showed.
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Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C), which is contracted by the council to provide autism services, sent letters out this summer to several NAAN members stating the waiting time was around three years.
And at least one man has been waiting five years.
"Our evidence shows the report is at best misleading and at worst, false," Mrs Smith, from Beeston Regis, said.
Clive McCann-Williams, 36, from Norwich, has been waiting since 2014 for a diagnosis.
"I know there are others that will be higher priority than me," he said. "But if I'm constantly being pushed to the back of the list then there's no point me being on it at all."
NAAN has put together 17 pages of evidence showing how waits are longer than council figures suggest and in November they called for a meeting with Penny Carpenter, the chair of the council's health, overview and scrutiny committee. But that never went ahead.
A Norfolk County Council spokesperson said: "Our figures show one per cent of those on the waiting list are waiting for diagnosis for longer than 200 weeks.
"A recent update to our figures shows that the longest wait we have recorded is 220 weeks. As far as we are aware the rest of the figures are correct as stated in the report. An increase in funding has been agreed for 2020/2021."
They said it was difficult to recruit because of a national skills shortage.