I have received a lot of concerning correspondence from constituents surrounding the use of educational psychologists in additional needs assessments. The current situation is unacceptable as many children across Northamptonshire are unable to get an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Assessment.
Autism is a complex condition which affects many people in very different ways. In recent times, we have made great progress in improving our understanding of autism. However, I believe there is much more work to be done, and I am pleased to see that there are efforts being made across government and throughout society to support those with autism.
However, autism's complexity poses significant challenges, and I acknowledge that the regional variation in waiting times for autism diagnoses, and the quality of support available must be addressed. Efforts are being made to reduce diagnosis waiting times, and NHS England is now collecting data on autism in mental health services, to improve our wider understanding of the condition, and how it can be diagnosed as quickly as possible.
In order to try and help resolve the matter in Daventry and Northamptonshire, I have been in contact with Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) and specifically wrote to Northampton General Hospital (NGH) NHS Trust, seeking to understand why there is such a long waiting list for ASD Assessments. Please see part of the response from NGH below:
“According to national guidelines, assessment for ASD has to be undertaken by a multidisciplinary team. This should include a medical doctor (paediatrician or a child psychiatrist) and a psychologist and or a speech and language therapist. It is important that the child is assessed with information from the educational setting or the school.
In the past, community paediatricians at Northampton General Hospital conducted these multidisciplinary assessments with the educational psychologist from Northamptonshire County Council (NCC). Since August 2018, NCC stopped providing services for these assessments. This is because, as they have indicated in their letter, it is not one of their statutory requirements.
Overall responsibility for commissioning of the assessment for autistic spectrum disorder is placed with the local commissioning group (CCG). Therefore, Northampton General Hospital has communicated with the CCG to obtain necessary resources to re-instate the multidisciplinary assessment team. We have had meetings with them and in addition have had various correspondences.
Therefore we are unable to undertake this assessment at present. They have informed us that they will look for a solution at their meeting in February. There are more than 250 children waiting for this assessment. Further, some of these children have been on the waiting list for more than a year.
We are sorry that we are not able to undertake the assessment as we have no resources to do this. We are still awaiting a response from the CCG.”
After receiving this response, like many constituents, I believed that this situation was and still is unacceptable. And so I wrote to many parties surrounding this matter, You can find below a timeline of progress on this subject. I will endeavour to keep constituents informed of any future developments that occur:
Update: 24th February 2019
I wrote to the Department for Education, the Department for Health and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government, asking them to investigate whether NCC’s claims to not have a statutory requirement to provide the assessment are accurate. Please see below the response from Mr Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister of State for Children and Families at the Department for Health and Social Care.
Update: 28th May 2019
I have been in constant communication with the Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) over multiple constituent cases regarding this issue. And so, following the response from Mr Zahawi, I wrote to Mr Toby Sanders, Chief Executive of Corby and Nene CCGs seeking an answer to this mess, please find the response below.
Rest assured I will continue to liaise with all parties and continue to update you on this pressing matter.