FAMILIES in the county are waiting more than a year on average for children to be diagnosed with autism.

The average wait for children to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Worcestershire last year was 372 days – up from 327 days in 2017.

The length of the wait in Worcestershire ranged from eight days to 673 days.

Philippa Coleman, the county council’s lead commissioner for early health, said one of the main reasons for the longer wait was staff having to work through a backlog which meant it was “always going to get worse before it got better.”

However, she was confident numbers would start to drop in the next year and said the average wait should at least be halved to six months.

The number of referrals did drop from 1,038 in 2017 to 902 last year.

Of the 902 referrals, 706 were accepted for assessment, 161 cases were discussed and not accepted and 35 had not yet been considered.

The council said between 65 and 75 per cent of children referred would be diagnosed – meaning as many as 676 children could be diagnosed with ASD.

Councillor Chris Bloore, chairman of the council’s overview and scrutiny board, said the system was failing children and the length of wait was not acceptable.

He said: “I have sat in the front rooms of families who cannot get on with their day-to-day lives because they are worried and concerned about their children.

“This has such a huge effect on everybody’s lives. We need to know why the people in Worcestershire are not getting the service that they deserve. It is not acceptable for people to have to wait this length of time.

“We need to do it now. We can’t wait 12 months or six months.

“This is not acceptable. If it’s an issue with resources, if it’s an issue with our partners not doing what they should be doing. We have to get to grips with this.”

The council could not yet put an exact figure on how much investment would be needed to tackle the delay – whether by the council itself or the NHS – but was hoping to have one within the next three months.

Cllr Bloore said the report should be presented to councillors in three months’ time as a “matter of urgency.”