BEATING a backlog of child autism diagnoses will take at least three years, it is feared.
The condition is twice as common in Rotherham compared to the general average.
And diagnoses have been done on Skype for more than a year to avoid falling further behind during the pandemic.
But Jenny Lingrell, RMBC’s assistant director for commissioning, performance and inclusion, said: “For children and young people, there’s still a long waiting list.
“I was really clear in terms of setting expectations with partners, that this is something that’s going to take, I would say, at least three years to bring back into balance.
“We have now got a trajectory that has been agreed with the CCG and RDaSH. We meet monthly and review that trajectory.
“To enable us to achieve that reduction in the waiting list, we need to get to a position where the demand and capacity are balanced and, for a while, for there to be extra capacity, so as well as meeting new demand, we are chipping away at the waiting list.
“As of now, we are holding steady the waiting list isn’t going up and more.
“However, we haven’t started to reduce it yet.”
Rotherham CCG brought in mental health service Healios last year for a pilot project as monthly referrals hit 45 but capacity had been for 15 to 20.
The online diagnosis pilot has seen 120 families, and officials say the option has been well-received.
Mrs Lingrell added: “It’s positive because up until this point, it’s just been growing and growing and growing.”
She was also keen to point out that children were not left without support between referral and decision on whether they are on the autism spectrum.
“Our whole focus is that children should be supported, regardless of whether they have received that diagnosis,” she added.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to have the perception that a child who is on the waiting list is just being left with nothing.”
The issue was debated during an update on RMBC’s autism strategy to the health select commission meeting last Thursday.
The strategy seven years in the making was approved last June and followed by an autism pathway document for families.
Board chairman Cllr David Roche said: “A lot of good work has been done on this. This has taken longer than personally I would have liked but at the end of the day, it was more important to get it right, so it was effective, rather than to rush it out.”
Rotherham’s diagnosis rate for children is about three per cent double the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence average of 1.5.