Press release -

Department of Health (National): New guidance to improve health of adults with autism

For the first time, adults with autism in England will have health services that are more focussed to their individual needs, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow will announce later today.

Speaking at the National Autistic Society Conference, Mr Burstow will outline the publication of statutory guidance which sets a clear direction for how health and social care services should implement the autism strategy: ‘Fulfilling and rewarding lives’ and make improvements across areas such as:

  • diagnosis of autism
  • assessing the needs of adults with autism
  • building awareness and understanding of autism amongst frontline staff
  • training for frontline staff
  • information for adults with autism,
  • personalised services based on local needs
  • transition support for young people with autism

The statutory guidance follows an extensive consultation process around the autism strategy last year. Adults with autism, their families, carers and representative organisations identified gaps that exist across health services and put forward suggestions of key ways to address these.

Their views were built on from a further consultation on the draft statutory guidance recently – resulting in many people across the country having an opportunity to shape the future of care for adults with autism.

Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“It is unacceptable that adults with autism have not been getting the full and appropriate care and support that they need from health and social care services. Today is a vital step forward in changing that picture.

“Adults with autism, their families, carers and representative groups all come together to feed into this statutory guidance. Their priority for progression was clear.

“This government has set the direction of travel and it is now important that local commissioners and providers recognise this and identify where improvements need to be made.

“We will continue to review progress made and will also look to publish key quality outcomes to drive improvements across the public sector shortly. This will build on today’s statutory guidance for health and social care services and will address employment, housing and other public service issues for adults with autism.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:

“The publication of the statutory guidance is a landmark victory and marks the culmination of three years of campaigning by the NAS and our supporters. However, this is only the beginning, as local authorities and local NHS Trusts must now ensure that changes happen locally.

“As councils set their budgets, they need to take account of the new legal duties coming into force under the Autism Act, and not allow people with autism to continue to fall between the gaps in services. Now more than ever, they and their families need support.

“One third of adults with autism have developed a serious mental health problem as a result of a lack of support, and families tell us that they are often left struggling to cope. We are at a pivotal point and must push to see this strategy turned into action.”

Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of Autism Research at Cambridge University said:

“Finally, after five decades of parents battling to get the government to wake up to the needs of children and adults with autism, the UK Government is listening to parents and to those adults who can speak up for themselves. Their voices can be heard in the new Statutory Guidance for Health and Social Care published by the Department of Health.

“This journey has been a long one. From the days of knocking on closed doors, it has led to the Autism Act passed by Parliament in 2009, and the Autism Strategy published by the Department of Health in 2010.

“The launch of the Statutory Guidance is one more very important milestone along the journey, designed to ensure that words are implemented into action at a local level. I eagerly await this implementation, and am confident that having found their voice, adults with autism and their carers will let us know when and where the gaps in provision lie."

Declan Murphy, Professor of Psychiatry and Brain Maturation at the Institute of Psychiatry, said:

“This new work arising from the Autism Act includes the input from a wide variety of stakeholders and, for the first time, gives comprehensive guidance as to how a wide range of services should meet the needs of people with autism.

“The guidance will help communities better determine the local needs of people with autism, if they are meeting those needs (or not), more effectively allocate local resources, measure the impact of what they have achieved, and so help people with Autism fulfil their potential.”

Notes to editors

If you require any further information, please contact the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.


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  • Government


  • department of health (national)
  • adults with autism