THE HEALTH Secretary has pledged to look into County Durham’s “unacceptable” two-year waiting times for autism diagnosis.

Jeremy Hunt’s promise came in response to North Durham MP Kevan Jones’ intervention in the House of Commons, where he highlighted the wait anxious parents faced to get an autism diagnosis for their children.

Speaking in the Commons during Health Questions, Kevan Jones said: “One of the staffing shortages is actually in children and young people’s services.

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“In County Durham in my constituency, the waiting time for autism diagnosis is two years

“What can the Secretary of State do to ensure that the extra money that he has pledged to put into the service actually gets to the service?”

In answer, Mr Hunt said: “It is unacceptable for someone to be waiting that long, and I do not want to stand here and defend it.

“The money is starting to get through to the frontline. It is not just money, though. It is also capacity, and having trained mental health therapists _ nurses, psychiatrists –and that is why we are boosting their training, too.”

Mr Jones’ spoke weeks after Stockton South MP Paul Williams and his Stockton North counterpart Alex Cunningham gave passionate speeches in the Commons about how times need to come down.

Deborah Garland, who manages the National Autistic Society’s North-East resource centre, said: “Waiting times for autism diagnosis are a huge problem on a national and local level.

“Every local authority is facing significant diagnosis delays, which causes massive problems to families.

“Because, obviously if a family have a child that doesn’t have a formal diagnosis that child isn’t getting access to any support in, for example, school.

“So we have lots of families where children are experiencing significant difficulties in school.

She added: “We would welcome anything that highlights the problem in terms of getting more support to families and speeding things.

“Autism diagnosis delays are meaning people are experiencing avoidable mental health problems.”