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Children in Belfast waiting almost two years for autism assessment

Children in Belfast are waiting up to two years for an autism assessment

CHILDREN in Belfast are waiting almost two years for an initial autism assessment, it has emerged.

New figures show that children in the Belfast health trust area waiting on average 22 months for an appointment.

The wait for an assessment is now two months longer than it was earlier this year.

In February, it emerged that almost 300 children had been waiting more than a year for an assessment.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said that demand for autism assessments had "substantially outstripped capacity" in recent years, in response to an Assembly question from East Belfast Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle.

She said: "In 2015/16, there was a 17 per cent increase overall in demand for autism assessment. The number of referrals – 3,000 in total – was double the number the current system was designed to deal with.

"The Belfast trust has had a much higher level of referral than the other trusts, 2,262 referrals over the last three years, compared to 1,316 in the South Eastern Trust during the same period. This differential in referral rates, accounts for longer waiting times in the trust."

The minister said that current waiting lists were "unacceptably long".

She said: "However, unless we tackle the root causes this will remain the case, as we have a 20th century model delivering services for a 21st century population."

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