‘Healthcare is failing people with autism’

Craig Kennady and his daughter Bailey with Joy Hollister and Dave Allen from Derbyshire County Council.
Craig Kennady and his daughter Bailey with Joy Hollister and Dave Allen from Derbyshire County Council.

A Chesterfield autism campaigner says more needs to be done to change the way that people with the condition are treated by the National Health Service.

Husband and father Craig Kennady - who himself has the condition - has helped to produce a newly published report into the obstacles autistic people can encounter when seeking medical help.

The report - produced by the Westminster Commission on Autism - found that almost three-quarters felt that autistic people receive worse healthcare than their non-autistic counterparts and 65 per cent felt that healthcare professionals do not understand autism and how it affects someone’s physical and mental health.

Craig, 32, said: “I absolutely welcome the recommendations within the report because I know that I am not the only one who has suffered.

“We have heard from parents who have ended up giving their child blood tests themselves because healthcare staff had to resort to restraint to manage it.

“Other parents have told us of their child going to hospital with a suspected dislocated hip but actually having a two-kilo tumour.

“More needs to be done to ensure autistic people’s health needs are met.”

Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.

Craig - who has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism - says he has had personal experience of the difficulties people with autism can face in hospitals.

“On one occasion I attended accident and emergency department with breathing difficulties,” he said.

“After being taken into a room and told by the nurse to ‘take a seat’, I was shouted at because I took a seat on a chair and not on the bed.

“I was then left for a long time in a room where all I could hear was the noise of a very ill child screaming.

“I couldn’t see any solution within the hospital so I walked out and made my way to the next nearest hospital where I was treated with a nebuliser and steroids.”

The Westminster Commission on Autism is a cross-party coalition of parliamentarians, autistic people, parents, charities, health professionals and academics.

It’s chair, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, says that the UK is falling behind other European nations in providing good healthcare to people with autism.

He said: “We simply do not know who they are or what their health needs are. That is why the commission is calling for better training and data collection and for inspections of services to consider the needs of autistic patients.

“We also want for all autistic people to be offered an annual health check and for NHS England to appoint a clinical director for autism.”