Fears have been raised by campaigners that a significant number of
people with autism are being struck of GPs’ lists, Community
Care learned this week.
Paul Shattock, director of the Autism Research Unit at the
University of Sunderland and secretary of the World Autism
Organisation, said he was aware of many people with autistic
spectrum disorders who had been struck off by GPs.
He said that professionals needed to receive more training in order
for services to improve.
Colin Revell, a disability rights activist who has Asperger’s
syndrome, a condition at the higher functioning end of the autistic
spectrum, has been struck off by seven GPs since he was diagnosed
with the disorder in 1995. He was struck off for the seventh time
Revell said he felt like he was going through a “revolving door”
and that GPs did not understand his needs. “As soon as I ask to be
referred to an autism specialist we come into conflict,” he
Shattock said people with Asperger’s syndrome presented particular
problems for GPs: “Often their difficulties are hidden and people
are fooled by their language skills and think they haven’t got
problems.” He said this led to GPs and other professionals,
including social workers, believing that such people were “trying
to fool the system”.
Shattock said body language was also a problem, with people with
Asperger’s syndrome being taught to make eye contact when speaking
to people. This sometimes comes over as staring. “It’s very
unnerving for doctors to constantly have someone making eye
contact,” he said.
Andrew Powell, a project officer for the National Autistic Society,
said that some people with Asperger’s syndrome did not get the
support in other areas of their lives to enable them to know how to
act in a GP surgery. He agreed that GPs needed more training in how
to conduct interviews and communicate with people with autistic
Research by the National Autistic Society conducted last year and
covering 448 GPs found that, while people with autism may now be
part of any GP’s caseload, many were ill-equipped to provide
effective treatment for patients with an autistic spectrum
A spokesperson for Revell’s former GPs said they were unable to
comment on individual cases.
– GPs on Autism available from www.nas.org.uk