An analysis of professional care staff workload and effectiveness

Mark Galliver, Emma Gowling, William Farr, Aaron Gain, Ian Male

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective UK guidelines recommend that diagnosis of autism in children requires assessment by a multidisciplinary team. With growing numbers of referrals for assessment, diagnostic services have been under increasing pressure to meet the level of need. This study aimed to explore the number of hours of professional time required to complete such an assessment based on current practice in secondary care child development centres across the UK, and from this we calculate the cost of assessment.

Design An online questionnaire, using, was sent to 20 child development centres asking them to retrospectively record team members involved at each stage of assessment and time taken, including report writing and administration for a typical assessment. Costs were estimated based on the hourly rate for each team member, including salary, on-costs and trust overheads.

Results 12 questionnaires (60%) were returned. 10 centres adopted a two-stage approach to assessment with an initial ‘screening’ clinic determining whether the child needed to proceed to full multidisciplinary assessment. Median professional time involved was 13 hours (IQR 9.6–15.5 hours). This resulted in a median cost of £809 ($1213, based on conversion rate £1 equal to US$1.5 (November 2015)), (IQR £684–£925) ($1026–$1388)).

Implications This study confirms that multidisciplinary diagnostic assessment of a child with possible autism requires significant professional time, with staff costs of approximately £800 ($1200) per child. This does not include costs of intervention, parent psychological education, investigation and assessment and management of comorbidities. If growing waiting times for diagnostic assessment are to be avoided, funding for diagnostic services needs to reflect the human resources required and the resulting costs of that assessment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000052
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017


  • health care organization
  • Child health
  • Cost Analysis
  • health care systems


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