The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to publish a quality standard for children with autism, which will set out what high-quality care should consist of.
This follows care services minister Paul Burstow's announcement in February that NICE will produce a quality standard for adults with autism. NICE quality standards are a set of specific, concise statements that set out what high-quality care should look like on the NHS, and will form the basis of commissioning decisions taken by the NHS Commissioning Board. The autism standards are part of 123 standards being developed across a range of physical and mental illnesses.
This move has been welcomed by the National Autistic Society (NAS), which had lobbied for this in its 'You Need To Know' campaign, which aimed to improve mental health services for children with autism.
The NAS has said it will push to ensure that the standard has a strong focus on mental health support. Sarah Lambert, the NAS's head of policy, said: "After 2 years of campaigning, the decision to include autism as a topic for NICE's quality standards work programme is great news for over 100,000 children living with autism in England. "Children with autism have a distinct set of needs and with 71% experiencing mental health issues along with their autism, support from local services is vital. These standards should set out clearly what's expected from local services and go a long way towards improving the experiences of children with autism. "We'd [the NAS] like to see quicker access to diagnosis for those with suspected autism, good follow-up so that there is proper understanding of what diagnosis means, and appropriate on-going support, which would make all the difference in the lives of children and their families up and down the country. "The Government has got the ball rolling; it's now up to NICE to ensure they get it right."