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Parents and carers help GPs in Crawley become autism-friendly

Parents and carers of autistic children have won an award for their work training staff at GP surgeries in Crawley to make their practices more autism-friendly

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At our annual conference last week, Maria Cook, Autism Support Crawley and Perry Anderson from Poundhill Medical Group together won the It Starts With You award, in recognition of their outstanding work dedicated to making GP services better for children with autism.

After years of stressful visits with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to the doctor, a group of parents and carers decided to call for change.

Working with Healthwatch West Sussex and a local GP practice, the group encouraged over 100 families to share their experiences and suggestions for improvements.

Based on what people told them, the group created a simple five-step plan that GPs could follow to make a real difference.

Five steps to help make going to the doctor a better experience for people with autism and their families

  1. Continuous training for all staff, including GPs to understand working with families and carers.
  2. Improvements to waiting areas and the waiting experience.
  3. Better notes on files that help staff identify when patients are autistic.
  4. A programme to supporter carers, including regular checks and flu jabs.
  5. Better education for patients and staff on how to be referred to mental health services for young people, the local Child Development Centre and London hospitals.

The project has gained significant local support, and more than seven GP practices are using the plan to make positive changes to the way they work with people with autism.

These dedicated volunteers continue to give up their time to help train GPs in the area at no cost, to help make going to the doctor better experience for other families.

Thanks to those who shared their experiences, families and carers of children with autism have noticed a huge difference in the care they receive.

One mum said, “It has completely transformed my son’s view of the GP surgery… I’m surprised that something so simple has made such a difference to him.”


The more that people share their ideas, experiences and concerns about NHS and social care, the more services can understand when improvements are needed. But, to make the biggest difference, we need to hear from more people.

You can make a difference. Find out more about our #ItStartsWithYou campaign or share your experience with your local Healthwatch and help make services better for your community. It starts with you.

Find your local Healthwatch