A North Wales NHS chief has revealed that the region is facing a huge rise in reported cases of autism, ADHD, and other neurodiverse conditions since the Covid pandemic, with the number of children referred doubling.

New cases have increased across North Wales from around 200 a month to more than 400, meaning children, parents, and those waiting to be assessed are facing months or even years before they are diagnosed.

The revelation follows several parents with children suspected of being autistic or neurodiverse contacting the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Dr Nick Lyons, executive medical director at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “We face the same challenges as health boards and trusts across the UK in ensuring timely access to neurodevelopment assessments in the face of significant growing demand.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, our neurodevelopment service received around 200 referrals every month. In 2023, that figure has increased to almost 400 per month.

“Regrettably, it has not been possible to increase our clinical capacity to match this increase in demand.

“Demand for this service far outweighs capacity, and this is known to be a national issue, and we continue to work proactively with partners to address this issue to futureproof the service.

“We do not underestimate how difficult these long waits can be for children and their families, and we are continuing to do all we can to reduce waiting times.

“Over the last 18 months, we have been working with Welsh Government to begin to deliver the national Neurodivergence Programme.

“As part of this programme, we have a team in place to look at ways we can modernise our service so we can improve the patient experience and their families.”

He added that Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board is “trialling new ways of working to help inform our future services delivery model.”

“One of the trials is joint working with our educational leads in one of our local authorities to support professionals to enable them to support children who are presenting with difficulties which may or may not be linked to a neurodevelopmental condition,” he said.