The NHS Long Term Plan, autism and children’s mental health

The NHS unveiled its Long Term Plan at the beginning of this month, which we are very pleased to see includes a commitment to improving health and care services for autistic children and adults, with autism and learning disability being a clinical priority for the next ten years.

As well as looking to reduce waiting times for autistic people, The Plan has committed to improving mental health teams for autistic children and adults, continuing to invest in expanding access to community-based mental health services to meet the needs of more children and young people, plus improve mental health support in schools and colleges. Together, we hope these commitments will have a huge impact on those suffering with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Past research has shown that those on the autistic spectrum have much worse physical and mental health and are also at risk of dying younger than members of the public in general, so we are delighted to see that The Long Term Plan focuses on improving the health of autistic people, including a pledge to pilot a specific health check for autistic people, making sure that healthcare providers make reasonable adjustments and have a better understanding of autism and learning disabilities.

The Plan has also pledged to support children and their families throughout the diagnostic process, by collaborating with local authority social care and education services, as well as leading charities.

Another key development arising from the Plan, is the NHS committing to greater funding for children and young people’s mental health services, which will grow at a faster rate than overall NHS funding, as well as total mental health spending. This will ultimately boost the numbers of children and young people aged 0-25 who are able to access support via NHS funded mental health services and school or college-based Mental Health Support.

It is reassuring to see that NHS England have recognised the scale of the issues facing those with autism and learning disabilities, so we eagerly await these plans as they develop in coming years.

At Highgate Hill House School, we believe that mental health is not extracurricular, and so we’ve taken the proactive step of employing our own School Mental Health Practitioner who started with us earlier this month. Sophie will be helping us to put mental health at the forefront of everything we do, to help our children become happy and successful in life.