Waiting for 10 months for autism assessment

Gerry Mullan, MLA.

Gerry Mullan, MLA.

More than 300 children are waiting on an autism assessment in the Western Trust area, with some waiting close to 10 months, new figures reveal.

The shocking revelations were made as the Health and Social Care Board released statistics following an Assembly question from East Derry SDLP MLA, Gerry Mullan, to Health Minister Michelle O’Neill .

As of March 31, 2016, figures show 368 children were waiting for an autism assessment in the Western Trust area.

A breakdown shows 28 children were waiting up to a month, 90 children waiting between 26 and 39 weeks, and 58 waiting for more than 39 weeks.

Gerry Mullan said he met recently with Western Trust officials “in relation to the significant under spend in learning disability services.”

The Assemblyman has called for the underspend in learning disability services to be restored, and says the figures show the “scale of need in our communities”.

“I raised concern that this under spend may have contributed to the massive pressures we are now witnessing with many patients and families not getting the proper level of care and support that they need,” said Mr Mullan.

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said in relation to the under spend,“urgent action is now being taken to resolve it”.

“In partnership with local families and carers, the Trust has agreed to develop a long term plan to quantify the spending gap and address the historic resourcing issues in its adult learning disability services,” the minister. “The Trust will be fully supported in this important work by the Health and Social Care Board. Although the funding position for Health and Social Care is very challenging, I am committed to ensuring that the HSC as a whole prioritises its resources to meet the needs of the community, particularly the most vulnerable. I also plan to closely monitor the Trust’s progress on this particular issue.”