Autism assessments for children and young people in Scarborough and Ryedale go online

A new online assessment model has been developed by autism experts at The Retreat York so they can continue to assess children and young people – without families being asked to attend face-to-face appointments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The autism assessment service for children in Scarborough and Ryedale (associated with GP practices in the former NHS Scarborough and Ryedale CCG area) has been provided by The Retreat York for a year.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the team has continued to accept referrals for children and young people that require an assessment for Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it has not been able to carry out assessments in person because of the social distancing rules in place to limit the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The team has now developed a new assessment pathway that is fully online and does not require any face-to-face appointments. The process has been approved by NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and is now ‘live’.

The assessments offered will continue to follow best practice and NICE guidelines, using the skills and expertise of the very experienced multidisciplinary team at The Retreat York.

The new assessment service will be slightly different for younger children compared to older children and teens. Parents of younger children will be asked to submit video recordings of their child in everyday situations. Video material will be uploaded by parents/carers to a secure clinical app, which the family can access on their phone and allows them to share video recordings with the clinical team at The Retreat York.

Older children and teens will have their appointments by video call, a process that many children and teens welcome as it is for many less stressful than attending in person.

Parents and carers will continue to contribute to the assessment, but all of their appointments will be by video link. The team will also continue to contact a child’s school to gather relevant information from teaching staff.

Scarborough GP and NHS North Yorkshire CCG’s Clinical Lead for Vulnerable People, Dr Peter Billingsley, said: “The new online assessment pathway developed by The Retreat York is an innovative solution to the challenges presented by Covid-19 and the social distancing measures we’re all being asked to follow to suppress the virus.

“It means clinicians from Scarborough and Ryedale can continue to refer children and young people into the service and families can access the help and expertise offered by The Retreat York, without feeling their safety is being compromised.

“When The Retreat York took on this service, it inherited a sizeable caseload – I’m hopeful the new virtual pathway will also make inroads into the waiting list for autism assessments which I know would be greatly welcomed by families in Scarborough and Ryedale, as well as local clinicians.”

The Retreat York says it will work with families who do not have access to the internet “on a case by case basis” to try and find a suitable solution.