Local NHS referrals for children on the autistic spectrum - open letter

Open letter - 3 June 2017 (and the response from 14 June)

To: Mr David Bradley, CEO,
South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust

CC: Merton CCG's Clinical Chair, Dr Andrew Murray

Dear Mr Bradley,

It was with disappointment that we read of the recent proposal to limit NHS referrals for children on the autistic spectrum. We understand from reports that only those children who present with other mental health disorders would be able to receive an NHS diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), if the proposal moves forward.

We were startled by this proposal, given recent statements from the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust to improve ASD and ADHD assessments through reduced wait-times. It is a poor, and indeed illogical, trade-off for wait-times to be reduced through limiting the accessibility of assessments, if this is the suggested path of action.

ASD diagnosis is an important step in an autistic child’s life; it grants access to higher levels of support, specialist schools and the Disability Living Allowance, and allows the child to work with their network to achieve their full potential. Without this diagnosis, children are at risk of bullying, isolation, exclusion from school and severe psychological consequences. Furthermore, undiagnosed autism can pressure the NHS and the community later in life, as misunderstanding leads to compounding negative consequences. We all know the importance of early diagnosis so young people can get the support they need before the problems become more serious. Thus, this new proposal is false economy – not to mention an example of turning our backs on the children of South West London.

We hope you will drop this proposal on the basis that it is unfair, illogical, and unreasonable. With the vast majority - approximately two-thirds - of autistic adults not presenting with severe mental health difficulties according to the National Autistic Society, it is fair to assume that a great many children will miss out on an ASD diagnosis if an assessment will only be carried out if presenting with other mental health symptoms. This is not the path we want for our children. We wonder what level of consultation there has been, for example, with Merton CCG and Merton Council, as well as other stakeholders?

Many people in the community are concerned about this proposal and have contacted us directly about it. It is important to get clarity on this as soon as possible and not simply kick the decision down the road.

We would both strongly oppose this decision if it were to go ahead and we hope you will reconsider in light of the very strong objections from local people.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Carl Quilliam and Claire Mathys

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidates for Wimbledon and Mitcham & Morden

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