The suggestion comes as the DoH revealed that its upcoming autism strategy will require annual local audits of how diagnosis is improving.
Terry Brugha, professor of psychiatry at the University of Leicester, said GPs could develop expertise in diagnosing autism. He told a Westminster Health Forum event in London last Tuesday that there were no shortcuts to diagnosing people with the disorder.
Assessment involves understanding and interpreting detailed questions about childhood development. He said research has suggested that people are not able accurately to complete self-assessment questionnaires on such issues.
But expertise could be developed among GPs to complete such assessments, he argued.
‘I'm very impressed with the quality of referrals we're getting from a growing number of GPs,' he said.
‘They could act as a seed for primary care developing expertise in this area.'
But, he stressed, PCTs needed to develop appropriate services for GPs to refer to.