Ensuring people with autism get the best treatment and care

Health and social care practitioners can ensure they are delivering the best treatment and support for people with autism by following NICE’s quality standard, according to a leading expert.

“On World Autism Awareness Day it is worth remembering that autism is a condition that affects both adults and children, and while it has no cure, early access to specialist treatment can help,” said Jonathan Green, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, and a member of the committee that developed the quality standard. 

Around 1 in every 100 people in England has autism, a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people, and how they make sense of the world

Some people can have only minor problems associated with it, while others are affected severely by the disorder. Around 70 per cent of people with autism also have other physical or mental health conditions that are often unrecognised.

While there is no cure for autism, early diagnosis can lead to a range of interventions and treatments available that can help people manage its features.

Early access to assessment

NICE’s quality standard on autism in adults and those under 18 has eight measurable statements, which organisations can use to improve the quality of care for those with the condition.

The first statement says that people with possible autism who are referred to an autism team for a diagnostic assessment receive an assessment within 3 months of their referral.

NICE says that it is important that the assessment is conducted as soon as possible so that appropriate health and social care interventions, advice and support can be offered. Ensuring those who are affected by autism are given access to support as quickly as possible can help improve outcomes.

Focus on the person’s specific needs

The needs of people with autism can vary. Some may need complex levels of support from a range of professionals, and some may not want or need any ongoing support.

Providing a plan can ensure that the support given is coordinated and focused on a person’s specific needs and their best possible outcomes.

As a result, the quality standard calls for people with autism to have a personalised plan that is developed and implemented in partnership with their family and carers and the autism team.

The quality standard also calls for people with autism to be offered a named key worker to coordinate the care and support detailed in their personalised plan.

NICE says a named key worker can help ensure they receive an integrated package of care. 

Further statements in the quality standard cover access to appropriate psychosocial interventions, not using medication to treat the core features of autism and assessing and intervening in behaviour that challenges.

“Services for autism across England and Wales can vary”, says Professor Green, “which is why it’s important to have clear, evidence-based standards that highlight key areas for improvement.

“The NICE quality standard on autism highlights how organisations can ensure they are delivering the best treatment and support for people with this condition.”