NHS boss devotes afternoon to south east London autism services

18 April 2023
NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard visited south east London last week to learn more about developments in services for autistic people.

Together with Tom Cahill, National Director for Learning Disability and Autism, she met with colleagues at Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.

Amanda and Tom found out more about the Oxleas Adult Autism Partnership Programme and South London and Maudsley’s Transforming Care in Autism team.

Led by South London Integrated Care System following a pilot with the two trusts in 2019/20, these services have been co-designed by parents and carers working with the trusts’ health professionals. The services aim to ensure that autistic people are only admitted to hospital when absolutely necessary and that they are discharged more quickly when they are.

Our analysis suggests there are about 9,000 people with a learning disability and 21,000 autistic people living in south east London – although as many of you will know there is overlap in these figures as 20-30% of autistic people have a learning disability. We also know autistic people are more likely to have a mental health condition. Around 70% of autistic people have at least one mental health condition and 40% have two or more.

Official data also shows that people with a learning disability and or autistic people living in south east London have more intensive mental health support needs. There is a wide acknowledgement that regionally and nationally that in the past south east London had high rates of inpatient admissions of autistic people with mental health conditions. However, the new services are already having an impact.

The average number of monthly admissions by this client group across south east London fell from 7.8 in 2019 to 5.1 last year. Typically, there are now around 55 autistic people with a mental health condition in hospital on any given day; down from 77 in 2019.

Dr Ify Okocha, Chief Executive of Oxleas, said: "The visit from Amanda and Tom was a great opportunity to showcase the progress already made and to talk through plans to develop services further."

SEL ICB’s Associate Director for Learning Disability and Autism, Carol-Ann Murray, said: “We were pleased that NHS leaders were able to see how our clinicians and managers have worked alongside autistic people and their parents and carers to change services over the last three years.

"They met with the parent of a young adult who was involved in co-producing the service and heard how being listened to and her involvement had benefitted her son and other autistic people.

“Coproduced services have already had a real impact on reducing the numbers of local autistic people in long stay hospitals – a key challenge set for us by NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care.”

The South East London Integrated Care System has signed up to Mencap's 'Treat Me Well' pledge. This aims to ensure NHS staff make reasonable adjustments for people with a learning disability so that the right care and treatment is given and avoidable deaths are reduced. Learn more about the campaign here.