A busy year
18 December, 2023
I first started noticing autism back in 2012, when junior doctors were still called House Officers. Back then, autism was seen as the domain of CAMHS and Learning Disability services: general adult psychiatrists like me didn’t take much of an interest.
Over the intervening time there has been a real culture shift. I’ve presented at a number of College events this year, including the International Congress, and pretty much every psychiatrist I speak to now wants to learn more about Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry.
This year the College, with support from Health Education England, launched the National Autism Training Program for Psychiatrists (NATP). It has been massively popular, which underscores the high demand for Neurodevelopmental training amongst our members. We are hoping to continue running the NATP next year and open it up to members outside of England. We’re also looking at the possibility of developing a GMC credential in Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry in future.
The NATP includes a talk from Dr Mary Doherty, the founder of Autistic Doctors International. I continue to hear from many autistic College members. They report that being aware of their own neurodivergence has enhanced their understanding and empathy for patients. However, some also describe challenges at work, including enduring stigma.
The College has set up a working group to look at how we can better support neurodivergent members going forward.
In response to concerns raised by the autistic community, the College has revised the autism section of the Emergency Management of Eating Disorders guidance. The updated guidance is here.
Given the financial constraints the NHS faces, 2024 looks set to be another challenging year for neurodevelopmental services. NHS England just released figures showing long wait times for autism assessments. The wait times in ADHD services are even worse, compounded by the ADHD medication supply crisis. The College will use its influence to advocate for increased investment in neurodevelopmental services, in the absence of which waiting lists will only continue to grow.
Despite these challenges, working in Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry remain hugely rewarding. If you are interested in learning more, please join the Neurodevelopmental Special Interest Group. The SIG meeting in Leicester this October was one of the highlights of my year. It was great to meet up with colleagues in person after so many zoom meetings! The SIG has more events planned for 2024 so keep an eye on the SIG webpages for details.