Children in Hertfordshire are now waiting for up to two years to be assessed for autism (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
On Wednesday (December 6), Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) chief executive Karen Taylor told the county’s health scrutiny committee the waiting time was ‘not acceptable’. She reported that it was lower than in some other parts of the country, where she said patients could face waits of up to 10 years.
Addressing the meeting, she said: “The big issue is ADHD and ASD diagnosis and there is a two-year wait for a young person for that assessment and diagnosis at the moment.
“Compared to nationally there’s up to 10 years waiting – so you can be an adult in some places before you will ever get that assessment.
“Two years is not acceptable – and I will say that out loud – and it came up in the recent SEND report that you are probably aware of from Ofsted as well. It’s something we are working together to address.”
Stevenage Borough councillor Maureen McKay said there were now parents and children in crisis who were waiting for diagnosis. She said some were trying to be seen privately, so that they could move on. And she asked how it could be resolved.
In response, HPFT executive director for quality and medical leadership Prof Asif Zia pointed to the increase in demand. He said there had been a 30 per cent increase in the number of referrals for ADHD and ASD – with almost 100 new referrals a week. He said a child’s diagnosis was now prompting other family members to seek assessment – creating greater demand for the service.
“When you diagnose children, you just don’t diagnose children, because then you get a referral for parents – and then we have started to get referrals for grandparents,” he said.
“So I think the demand for this across the board is very high – and it is going up.
“So the challenges are there around how do you manage it safely. But I totally take the point that it needs to be collectively as a partnership we have to resolve this.”
A pilot project in south and west Hertfordshire was reported to have increased the number of young people being assessed and receiving ongoing support. HPFT Director of Strategy David Evans said there were plans for this to be rolled out across the county, in addition to other support measures.
He said support hubs and some early intervention groups had been put in place to support parents and families at the early stages of concerns that they may have. He added that they were working with primary care to make sure that they are able to have the conversations and put in place any support.
He suggested the issue was significant and needed to be addressed as quickly as possible.