Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


NHS must prioritise health of children and young people

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 14 March 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k1116

Rapid Response:

Re: NHS must prioritise health of children and young people - what about autism?

I suggest Prof Viner and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Heath* also need to look at the the vast rise in autism, particularly among young children, which I documented from official figures in a published submission to the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into Fake News (I should add that the issue is not that I made the data up but that it is urgent and being ignored/suppressed in mainstream sources). Moreover, if we are looking at economic sustainability there could scarcely be a more costly burden to the state and its citizens. I quote from my evidence:

"To give a concrete example, though the Department of Health has neglected to collect autism [ASD] data for children since 2004 when the figure was effectively frozen at 1 in 100 [12], the actual figures for schools have continued to rise year on year [13]. A recent news report from Northern Ireland gives the rate there as 1 in 40 [14] and a BBC report earlier this year from London suggested the figure in the capital for those waiting for a diagnosis, who will be mostly young children, has reached 1 in 10 [15,16]. Moreover, local authorities only recognise disability if they absolutely have to, because it costs huge amounts of money.

"When such stories are reported they tend to focus on the lack of provision, not on why it is happening. This is damning public data and the Department of Health do not even want to talk about it – implicitly they connect it with vaccination...

"[12] Green H et al, Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004, Table 4.1 p.35.

"[13] The figure for schools are published by various government sources: National Statistics, the Department of Education, the Scottish Executive etc. The January 2017 figure for England can be calculated at 1 in 67 and the September 2016 figure for Scotland 1 in 51, however the long term position is much worse since (a) these are 15 year rolling cohorts so the rates are much higher among younger children and (b) data for younger children is still incomplete since there are many who will still not be diagnosed.

"The rate for English schools is derived by dividing the total number of pupils in school (8,669,085) by the number with ASD diagnosis (128,948). The first number comes from the DoE publication, Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2017, p. 3 and the other figure extracted from National Statistics Special educational needs in England: January 2017, & National Tables SFR 37/2017 table 8, and Additional tables SFR37/2017 table G

"The number of pupils in Scottish was 684,415 and the number of pupils with an ASD diagnosis was 13,423: data provided by the Scottish Executive.

"[14] Sarah Scott, New campaign aims to raise awareness about autism in the classroom, Belfast Live 5 November 2017,

"[15] Jane Dreaper, Autism diagnoses 'could be reduced under NHS plan, BBC News 27 May 2017,

"[16] John Stone, Re: US government website for collecting adverse events after vaccination is inaccessible to most users, BMJ Rapid Responses, 29 May 2017,"

*Russell M Viner, 'NHS must prioritise health of children and young people' BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 14 March 2018)

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 March 2018
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22