More than one in four autistic people in mental hospitals have been there for five or more years, per a new report from the National Autistic Society.

Published yesterday, the charity’s report analyses publicly available and unpublished NHS data, and shows there’s been a 24% rise in the number of autistic people without a learning disability admitted to mental health hospitals – a 7% increase since 2015 – despite the creation of NHS England’s Transforming Care programme which aimed to reduce reliances on inpatient services. The programme is set to end in a few months.

Four in ten of the autistic patients in these hospitals are under the age of 25, and shockingly, the report has identified that 30% of all autistic people under the Transforming Care programme have been identified as no longer needing in patient care. These people are living in mental hospitals that are often situated miles away from their families, friends, and communities; all the while finding themselves subject to unnecessary seclusion, restraint and overmedication.

With Transforming Care set to end in March 2019, the charity has accused NHS England with failing autistic people. They have written to both Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, and Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to demand: the Government put together a specialist autism team; that the mental health laws are changed to reflect the needs of autistic people; that the quality of care be significantly improved; and that the Secretary of State make an unannounced visit to one of these hospitals to see first hand what happens inside.

Jane Harris, director of external affairs at the National Autistic Society, said: “This alarming data shows that more and more autistic people are getting stuck in mental health hospitals.

“In many cases they’re miles away from their family and friends. We are deeply disturbed by stories of unnecessary use of seclusion, restraint and over-medication — we need government and NHS England to act decisively now.”

In a statement to the Times, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are determined to reduce the numbers of autistic people in mental health hospitals, improving community support so they only go to hospital when absolutely necessary and return home as soon as their treatment has finished.”

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Source: PR/The Times [paywall]
Image: Lad 201/Wikimedia


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