Young autistic people still dying despite coroner warnings over care

“Dozens of young autistic people have died after serious failings in their care despite repeated warning from coroners,” the BBC has said.

The BBC have conducted an investigation – the first of its kind – into more than 4,000 Prevention of Future Death Notices (PFD) delivered in England and Wales over the past 10 years, looking for autism related deaths.

They identified 51 cases where PFDs described serious failings in the care of autistic people, with some issues raised over a decade ago and yet still being warned about today. The cause of death in the inquests included in the report varied, but nearly half were categorised by coroners as relating to mental health or suicide. Most of the people who died were young people under 30, and almost a third of them children under 18.

Five Key Concerns Flagged by Coroners

  1. Lack of trained staff with an understanding of autism
  2. Failure to treat autism and mental health problems as two separate conditions
  3. Shortage of specialised accommodation
  4. Lack of health professional to co-ordinate the young person’s care – as recommended in NICE guidelines
  5. Late diagnosis of autism

As a result of the investigation, health and social care bodies are being urged to take action to prevent future deaths; though coroners are legally required to issue warnings about future risks at inquests, care authorities currently have no legal duty to act on these warnings.

The Department of Health and Social Care says £4.2m is being invested to improve services for autistic people, and a national autism training programme is being rolled out.

Practical Learning

From the perspective of NHS, the key practical message to take away is the importance of PFDs and taking action accordingly to prevent the risk of future deaths. It is also important that Trusts are following NICE guidelines i.e., arranging a designated key worker for each autistic child.

If you have any questions regarding this newsflash or any of the issues raised, please contact our team.