Improving Autism Care: The NICE Quality Standard

Perspectives in Public Health, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Improving Autism Care: The NICE Quality Standard


In the United Kingdom, an estimated 700,000 people have autism. Of these people, approximately 80,000 are children of school age. In recent years, there have been concerted efforts at a national level to address the complex needs of people with autism through the Autism Act 2009 and initiatives like the 2010 National Autism Strategy. As a result, there is greater awareness of autism and a rise in the number of people diagnosed with the condition. One of the main issues for people with autism, their families and their carers is the variation in care across the country. In some areas, people with autism do have access to high-quality, personalised care, but in others, there is a clear need for improvement.

Integrated autism care

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published a new quality standard to improve the quality of care and support for children, young people and adults with autism in England and Wales. This quality standard aims to support commissioners as they plan local autism services and provide health and social care practitioners with advice and information to ensure that they are delivering high-quality care. The quality standard can also help service users, their families and carers better understand what sort of care they should be getting.

People with autism have impairments in social interaction and social communication, combined with restricted interests and rigid and repetitive behaviours, often with a lifelong impact. These problems can substantially affect a person's quality of life, and can lead to social vulnerability. Accessing high-quality care, and the continuous support they need, can be emotionally draining and frustrating for them, their families and carers. Equally, it can be difficult for commissioners to plan services that meet those needs in a clinically and cost-effective way.

High quality, standardised care

The NICE quality standard is designed to standardise and improve autism care. It features eight quality statements that show what good care looks like and outlines the essential components of effective autism services. The standard has been developed collaboratively with health, social care and public health practitioners, along with their partner organisations, patients, carers and service users. …

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