The Royal College of General Practitioners Autism Clinical Priority Project: Overcoming Barriers and Achieving Access to GPs


Each year the RCGP adopts three 'clinical priorities' in order to raise the profile and awareness of a particular condition among the GP population. Autism spectrum disorder was selected for the three year period beginning April 2014. Each priority is led by a Clinical Champion. The role of the Clinical Champion was to work in partnership with key decision-makers and opinion-formers in each clinical area on projects that seek to improve both the care provided and patient outcomes. The Clinical Champion for Autism was Dr Carole Buckley, a GP with a clinical practice in Bristol and mother of a son on the autism spectrum. Dr Buckley, together with a wide range of partners including people on the autism spectrum, parents and carers, professionals in the field, and the national charities Research Autism and the National Autistic Society, led on the delivery of a programme of activity that achieve the aims of the priority.

These programmes were designed to influence and inform not only GPs, but also other frontline staff in GP practices, and professionals in primary care services including nurses, dentists and those who plan and commission services.

Likely impact

Over the course of the three years of the programme, the project aimed to:

  • raise awareness and promote earlier diagnosis of autism
  • ensure that education and training is compulsory for anyone supporting people on the autism spectrum and their families and carers
  • improve access to health care for people on the autism spectrum
  • improve outcomes for people on the autism spectrum and their families and carers
  • encourage primary care to take part in evidence based research in autism
  • support Clinical Commissioning Groups in making change happen
  • make the lives of people on the autism spectrum and their families better

Programme of Activities

This project was delivered by a Project Manager and overseen by a Steering Group chaired by the Clinical Champion. Research Autism's Information Manager was a member of the Steering Group and supported the delivery of the programme in partnership with the RCGP and Dr Buckley. The programme of activities was designed to identify ways of overcoming some of the barriers identified above. Dissemination of the findings was a key aspect of the project, ensuring that lessons learnt were communicated as widely as possible. Research Autism's website (www.researchautism.net) was a key component in this dissemination process, since it is the only autism website in the UK with NHS Information Standard accreditation.  The programme of activities was designed to be specific, deliverable within a three year period.

Useful websites

The following websites (which arose out of this project) are designed to help primary care staff to help patients on the autism spectrum. 

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14 Mar 2018