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Services To Improve

Autism patients face better quality of life Thursday, April 09, 2009, 09:20 Comment on this story A TEAM of specialists could be set up to improve the care and support available to autism sufferers. Hundreds of people with autism would benefit from better diagnosis, care and support services, according to a council report. Stoke-on-Trent City Council has teamed up with the city's primary care trust, NHS Stoke-on-Trent, to develop a new joint strategy to help people with autism and Asperger's syndrome. Under the proposals, a new team will be set up to offer specialist diagnostic, assessment and support services to patients with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). The council and the PCT will also invest in a range of support services to help people with an ASD find work and live independent lives. Money will also be ploughed into training programmes for council and health workers to improve awareness of the conditions. And the numbers and needs of people with an ASD in the city will be properly monitored. The joint strategy, which will rely on funding from the NHS, will be discussed by the council's decision-making executive and members' board next week. A report to the panel estimates that there are about 540 children and almost 1,700 adults with some form of autism or Asperger's syndrome in the city. But it says the exact figure is not known because numbers are not recorded. The report says: "Feedback from local service users and carers has been that it is difficult to have their needs assessed correctly or to receive a formal diagnosis of their condition. "Social care and NHS staff, including GPs, often lack the knowledge of autism needed to be able to recognise the condition. "In some cases, people with an ASD are not able to receive support at a relatively early stage, but then need a crisis response service at a later stage." The council has promised that it will consult patients and carers before implementing the strategy to ensure their needs are met. North Staffordshire Asperger/Autism Association (NSAAA) administrator Elaine Blake said the proposals were very welcome, but long overdue. She said: "It is a very good idea and it will be welcomed by all of the organisations like ourselves that deal with autism and Asperger's. "But it is a long-awaited decision and it really should have come a long time ago. "We have about 200 members from all over Staffordshire, and we even get inquiries from people in Derbyshire and the West Midlands who want our help. "This new strategy will help us, but what we and all the other organisations really need is funding so that we can continue to provide these vital services." Staffordshire Adult Autistic Society chairman Kevin Healey, pictured, also welcomed the new strategy. He said: "I think this is a really important step because services for people with autism in the city have been scarce for years. "Having a proper diagnostic service would make a real difference, because a lot of adults have to go out of the area for an assessment, which can take up to 12 months, or go private and pay as much as £800. "And when they get the diagnosis, they find there is no after-support available to help them come to terms with it. "They are just left on their own and don't know who to turn to for help. "It would be fantastic if the council says it is going to do this and I can't wait to see the strategy in force because it has been a long time coming.


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