Thank you for contacting me about autism.

While in recent times we have made progress in improving understanding of autism, I believe there is more work to be done. I am pleased to see efforts being made across government and throughout society to support those with autism.

I am pleased to say that my ministerial colleagues are continuing to build on the advances made since the establishment of the Autism Act in 2009. Since 2010, the Autism Strategy has united multiple government departments, and improved the diagnosis, treatment, and support available to those with the condition.

The regional variation in waiting times for autism diagnoses and the quality of support available must be addressed. Efforts are being made to reduce diagnosis waiting times, and NHS England is collecting data on autism in mental health services to improve our wider understanding of the condition and how it can be diagnosed as quickly as possible. The Think Autism strategy establishes a clear route to diagnosis, care and support, and I will make every effort to see it is properly implemented in Mid Derbyshire and beyond. The NHS Long Term Plan seeks to strengthen and integrate local services, helping people to access support closer to home and to receive more personalised care.

I understand that the NHS defines Autism as a neurodevelopmental condition, rather than a learning disability or a mental health condition. Support areas often overlap because autistic people are more likely to suffer from poor mental health, around 20 per cent of people with a learning disability are also autistic, and around 40 per cent of autistic people have a learning disability.

Health Education England has a range of training programmes to ensure NHS staff of all levels are sensitive to the needs of autistic people, and I am happy to see that the Department for Health and Social Care is working with the body Skills for Care to ensure the Autism Strategy is properly implemented through the health and care workforce.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.