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People with Autism and Learning Disabilities

Volume 652: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2019

14. What steps he is taking to increase support for people with autism and learning disabilities. (908569)

Autism and learning disabilities are clinical priorities in the NHS long-term plan. We are committed to improving the quality of care provided to people with a learning disability or autism and to addressing the persistent health inequalities they face.

I thank the Minister for her response. The commitment to reducing diagnosis waiting times for children and young people is welcome, but what are the Government doing in this 10th anniversary year of the Autism Act 2009 to tackle diagnosis waiting times for all people?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his active involvement in the all-party parliamentary groups on learning disability and on autism. Over the next three years, we will be testing and implementing the most effective ways to reduce waiting times for specialist services. We are developing guidance to support commissioners to develop the necessary services to support all autistic people, and we have launched a review of our autism strategy.

As a former governor of a school for children with autism, I thank the Minister for her response. It is well known that people with ASD suffer premature morbidity due to worse rates of heart disease, cancer and death through epilepsy. What is the Minister doing to ensure that fewer people with autism die early?

These are key elements of the NHS long-term plan, and we will shortly start consulting on mandatory learning disability and autism training for health and social care staff. We will work to improve uptake of the existing annual health checks for people with learning disabilities and will pilot the introduction of specific health checks for autistic people.

The Minister knows of my interest in access to healthcare as chair of the Westminster Commission on Autism. She will also know that a real barrier is having enough people with the skills not only to identify autism, but to support families dealing with it.

The hon. Gentleman is right, and I pay tribute to his hard work in this area. Training is so important, and we want to ensure that all staff, whether clinical, medical or perhaps just on reception, have the necessary training to be able to help to support people with learning disabilities or autism.

What are the Government going to do about people who have suffered acquired brain injury? One in four major trauma centres have no neurorehabilitation consultant, meaning that such people all too often fall between the cracks and do not get proper support. Will the Government change that?

The hon. Gentleman chairs the all-party group on acquired brain injury, and we are working on the recommendations of his report. This is such an important issue, and we want to make sure that nobody falls through the gaps.

Order. We are running late, but I do not think Health questions would be complete without the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb).