NHSE shares five-year NHS autism research strategy

NHS England has shared its’ five-year autism research strategy, which sets out the strategic actions required to build more evidence-based healthcare for people with autism across the country.  

Entitled ‘Five-year NHS autism research strategy for England,’ the 24-page document outlines the reasons for why a research strategy is required, the strategic actions that need to be implemented, as well as the general principles underpinning the strategy.  

In an explanation of the motives and drivers behind the strategy, the document states that ‘change’ is needed to ensure health policy and clinical decisions made about the provision of care for people with autism are based on the ‘best’ available scientific evidence.  

The document sets out the four primary aims of the strategy, which include: 

  • To determine which areas of NHS autism service provision in England are based on reliable evidence and which areas require further research. 
  • To facilitate the use of the best current evidence when making decisions about autism services provided by or paid for by the NHS in England. 
  • To ensure there is a better fit between the evidence produced and the evidence gaps in the NHS in England. 
  • To improve the mechanisms to evaluate the effectiveness of policy and funding decisions about NHS-provided healthcare for autistic people in England. 

On the actions required of the NHS and healthcare professionals in providing evidence-based care for people with autism, the document states that an ‘evidence culture’ must be built in NHS autism services; ‘appropriate’ funding for autism research in England must be allocated; the quality of research should be raised; evidence in national autism policy must be used; and relevant research questions must be answered about the condition to bridge evidence gaps within the research community.  

Make a future together  

  • All stakeholders in autism research – for example, people with autism, parents, carers and other family members, researchers, professionals, and commissioners – must be meaningfully involved and engaged in the research process.  
  • Different forms of engagement – such as researchers informing or consulting a topic or group on a topic – and involvement – when a researcher, person with autism, parent/carers and clinicians collaborate or jointly decide what actions to take – in research must be used depending on the appropriate context and situation.  

Embrace Complexity  

  • The autism evidence base needs to reflect the diversity of the community, where co-occurring conditions such as specific learning conditions, mental health conditions, and physical conditions are included as factors within the research to ensure everyone is represented.  
  • A developmentally phased evidence base must be built to understand autistic people’s needs and to test the effect of interventions at different ages.  

To read the NHS strategy in full, please click here