Neurodiversity: Women

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 17 April 2024.

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Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Deputy National Campaign Co-ordinator

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether she has had discussions with paediatricians on trends in the number of women diagnosed with (a) autism and (b) ADHD.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

My Rt hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has regular discussions on a wide range of matters with a wide range of people, including clinical staff. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) guidelines for autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) recognise that autism and ADHD may be under-diagnosed in women and girls. The NICE’s guideline on autism diagnosis for under 19-year-olds and the NICE’s guideline on ADHD, both set out that clinicians should pay attention to the under-diagnosis of girls, when assessing for suspected autism and ADHD. We expect integrated care boards (ICBs) and health professionals to have due regard to these guidelines. In April 2023, NHS England published all age autism guidance, which aims to improve outcomes and the quality of autism assessment pathways for everyone. This guidance is available at the following link:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/publication/autism-diagnosis-and-operational-guidance/

With respect to autism, data shows that we are now seeing an increase in referrals for female diagnoses, suggesting that there is an increased awareness of the presentation of autism in women and girls. In England, as of December 2023, of the 172,022 patients with an open suspected autism referral, 52% were male and 47% were female. The number of female patients with an open referral for suspected autism is increasing more than for male patients, with the proportion of female patients having increased steadily from 36% in June 2020.

There is, at present, no single, established dataset that can be used to monitor waiting times for assessments and diagnosis of ADHD nationally. Although data is not held centrally, it may be held locally by individual National Health Service trusts or ICBs. NHS England is establishing a new ADHD taskforce alongside the Government, to improve care for people living with the condition. Alongside the work of the taskforce, NHS England has also announced that it will continue to work with stakeholders to develop a national ADHD data improvement plan.

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