HEALTH bosses are revamping the way it assesses children with autism in the county to try and drastically cut the more-than-a-year wait for a diagnosis.

Worcestershire Health and Care Trust and the county’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who are responsible for assessing and diagnosing children with autism, plan to change the way it reviews children who have or may have autism by getting to them earlier at school.

The average waiting time from referral to diagnosis for young people with autism in Worcestershire is currently 14 months, according to the health and care trust, and wants to cut that to six months by December 2020.

The trust also plans to create a “one stop shop” for less complex cases to get a quicker diagnosis.

Health bosses also plan to bring in extra staff to speed up assessments and work through a substantial backlog.

NHS bosses have already admitted hiring some specialist staff would be “challenging” but hope to have filled the new vacancies by the end of October.

The health and care trust and CCGs were criticised by councillors in May for failing to cut the length of time it took to diagnose young people with autism and were told they must do better.

When councillors met to scrutinise health bosses earlier this year, they found waiting times had not improved since 2017 and in some cases had got worse.

The county’s CCGs have already put forward £100,000 to help cut the backlog of children needing assessments.

The health trust tells families when children are referred that it may take up to a year to finish the full assessment.

Around 70 complaints were received by the NHS last year by about the length of time it had taken to get a diagnosis.

Councillor Fran Oborski, chairman of the council's children and families overview and scrutiny panel, said: "That is 70 families who were severely dissatisfied and unhappy about the service that their child or young person was receiving. Obviously we need to get away from that. It's not just that they were dissatisfied, you then also have to think about what is the impact on that family that has led them to be so distressed that they have made a complaint."

A review of how the trust assesses children found that many children had been assessed at school but full plans were never put together.

Those assessments should take place twice before children are referred to the health trust for full assessment.

Health bosses said it was a "missed opportunity" that some children were not being fully assessed at school and doing so could stop the need for referral and fuller assessments.

The trust also found support for children and families after a diagnosis and support for children who have been assessed but do not receive a diagnosis has been poor.