Published on: 30 June 2024

A Derbyshire NHS team has won a national award for its efforts to support local adults with autism. winners.JPG

The joint Autism Assessment Team and the Specialist Autism Team took home the award at the National Learning Disabilities and Autism Awards ceremony in Birmingham on 21 June for significantly reducing assessment wait times and decreasing the number of those with autism, that are treating in hospital

The awards celebrate excellence in the support of people with learning disabilities and autism and aim to pay tribute to those individuals or organisations who excel in providing quality care.

The Autism Assessment Team and the Specialist Autism Team won the Great Autism Practice Award, which recognises good autism practice to enhance quality of life for individuals, families and supporters by making reasonable adjustments or providing support developing strategies to increase happiness and wellbeing in people with autism. The team was chosen for demonstrating a significant improvement in the patient journey through the service over the last year; while waiting times are still long due to demand for the service, the team has managed to reduce waiting times by almost 50% in the last two years. This was made possible through a much quicker turnaround of assessments. Reports have been made easier to access and write, which has also contributed to the positive reduction in waiting times.

The judges praised the team for their outstanding efforts at supporting patient-centred care, saying: “The team is deeply committed to supporting individuals with autism in their community, prioritising efforts to prevent hospital admissions. Remarkably, last quarter, they achieved a 94% reduction, of those referred, in admissions. Taking proactive steps, they assessed the skills of their clients across various services and successfully trained 18 individuals from other teams to conduct assessments. Their profound impact on the community is nothing short of remarkable.”

The Community Learning Disability Service was also shortlisted for an award for the Making a Difference Award, which recognised a provider or person who has promoted inclusion and community cohesion through their work or role in the community – particularly where this has helped make a positive change happen in people’s lives.

The nomination focused on the team’s work to promote annual health checks by GPs for people with a learning disability, which are very important in highlighting physical health issues that might otherwise go undetected.

Both the Autism Assessment Team and the Community Learning Disability Team are part of the Adult Neurodevelopmental Service, which brings together services provided by Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust and Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Libby Runcie, Head of Derbyshire’s Integrated Adult Neurodevelopmental Services, congratulated both teams for their efforts, and said: “A huge well done to both services who have worked tirelessly to improve health outcomes for patients who are neurodiverse, particularly for focusing on patient-led work that has made a huge impact.  

“A big thank you goes to Dr Ian Watkiss, one of our Consultant Clinical Psychologists in Adult Neurodevelopmental Services, for his ongoing commitment to the Autism Assessment service and for being the driving force in the improvements across this area.”

Vikki Ashton Taylor, Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Delivery Officer at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Very well done to both teams involved for the work they have carried out for our autistic and learning disability communities. Well done to the Autism Assessment Team and the Specialist Autism Team for their continued efforts to support patient outcomes. The team aim to meet current challenges and demands, to ensuring that local people receive exceptional care with us.”