Last updated: 31.08.13

NICE: Autism training must improve

Health and social care workers in the UK must receive training in autism awareness and managing patients with the condition.

This is the suggestion of a new report from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which claimed this training should include understanding the nature and course of autism and the behaviours people can expect to witness.

NICE also said learning materials must cover how healthcare professionals can ensure a consistent approach to care is carried out across all settings and how to provide individualised care, as well as how to recognise coexisting conditions such as depression and ADHD.

Professor Gillian Baird, consultant paediatrician and professor of paediatric neurodisability at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, said many patients with autism will also have other physical, neurodevelopmental or mental health illnesses and these often go unnoticed.

She added: "Assessment needs to be tailored to the individual and their families or carers, to enable them to get the right intervention and support from education, health services and voluntary organisations."

Signs of autism do not always emerge until a child enters a change of situation - such as starting school - and as a result, NICE suggested that training should cover the importance of key transition points, as well as the individual's experience of autism and the impact of the condition upon their family.

It further recommended educating healthcare workers about how to communicate with children and young people with autism and their loved ones.

This could be achieved through in-house training during working hours, or bosses may want to provide their staff with online learning materials that they can access in their spare time, when it won't interfere with their busy schedule.

E-learning provider Virtual College offers two modules in autism, An Introduction to the Autism Spectrum and Understand How to Support Individuals with Autistic Spectrum Conditions. Both courses are ideal for helping employees meet the standards set out by NICE and would ensure they provide autism patients with the care they deserve.