Building tomorrow, together

Future50 Appeal | All about our Future 50 project
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We want to build a better future for people affected by autism.

Two very significant challenges in autism care are:

  • A lack of expert help for people with autism in crisis
  • Delayed diagnosis

Our Future 50 project is looking to tackle these two issues, by creating two distinct autism services in Merseyside.

A new in-patient service

Traditional inpatient assessment and treatment units (ATUs) are used when an individual with autism has a behavioural crisis or mental health deterioration in their current placement which requires further assessment and treatment. But ATUs had become little more than holding pens for difficult people and the problems associated with them have been widely reported. It has been government policy to close down ATUs, placing people in community settings instead.

However, as autism specialists we recognise that people in crisis must have somewhere to go.  We are building a new generation of in-patient assessment, which treats people with dignity and respect and aims – from day one – to work towards them leaving for a home in the community.

Our in-patient service will ensure patients have highly autism-specific care plans, delivered by expert staff in a calm, low arousal environment. The maximum length of stay will be six months.

Despite the current increasing level of need there remain no autism-specific units of this kind in our area: the nearest similar unit is 55 miles away in Bolton.

An autism diagnosis clinic

Research conducted by the National Autistic Society (2017) found that waiting times for diagnosis were far too long. On average, on average children wait 3.5 years for a diagnosis and adults over two years after asking for help – many having to wait even longer.

Receiving an early diagnosis helps families come to terms with the condition and, vitally, opens up opportunities for social care support. The new clinic will allow children and adults to receive a formal diagnosis much faster than the current NHS system allows.

Again, this service is desperately needed in our region.

Biometric technology

At another building on our Raby site we are exploring whether biometric technology can aid our understanding of individuals with complex and challenging behaviour and whether this element can be incorporated into our in-patient unit. We are trialling the concept in partnership with leading academics and with the kind support of the Local Government Association, NHS Digital and Wirral CCG.