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GPs care for autistic patients despite having no formal training, report shows

Almost all GPs participating in a recent study admitted having at least one autistic patient currently in their care, despite close to half of them having no formal training in autism. Over 700,000 people are affected in the UK and a recently published report reveals an urgent need for improved local specialist service provision.

University College London Institute of Education’s Centre for Research in Autism and Education recent report highlighted that GPs have limited confidence in their abilities to identify and care for autistic patients.

Using data from 304 GPs surveyed in an online self-report study, the report shows that out of the total, 91% GPs said they have at least one autistic patient currently in their care. At the same time, 40% of the GPs surveyed admitted having received no formal training in autism. The report notes that although the GPs had good knowledge of autism’s key features, they reported limited confidence in caring for their autistic patients

“To compensate for their lack of training, GPs seem to be relying on their own experiences of autism – through autistic family members, friends or colleagues – as a source of tacit knowledge. Yet autism affects different people in different ways. An over-reliance on personal knowledge of autism might lead to GPs having a narrow, idiosyncratic view of autism. This could result in GPs missing the signs of autism, especially in people who don’t neatly fit the autism stereotype (such as women and girls),” Principal Investigator Professor Liz Pellicano said in an article.

There are around 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, according to the NHS Information Centre, Community and Mental Health Team.

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