Pioneering autism centre set to open

Construction underway in ground-breaking project involving CPFT, Autism Research Trust, National Autistic Society and N Sethia Foundation

Pioneering autism centre set to open
28 June 2013

A pioneering centre for people with autism is set to open in Cambridge.

The Chitra Sethia Autism Centre will be based on the Fulbourn Hospital site, which is run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT).

The project has been made possible thanks to the Autism Research Trust (ART) and the National Autistic Society (NAS) who received a grant from the N Sethia Foundation to redevelop the existing building.

The three organisations will work together to create a diagnosis centre (pictured right, under construction) that will accept national referrals for adults, in conjunction with a post-diagnosis support centre for people with autism and their families in Cambridgeshire.  The centre will open in August 2013.

Around one in 100 people in the UK have autism – this equates to just over 8,000 people in Cambridgeshire.

The centre will be the new home of CPFT’s Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service (CLASS) clinic. The clinic pioneers the specialist assessment of adults who may have Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of CLASS and a trustee of ART, (pictured right) said: “This is a very exciting development. The new centre will provide a vital resource for adults with an autism spectrum condition and their families. By being closely linked to autism research it will also provide evidence-based standards of excellence in clinical practice.”

Dr Attila Vegh, Chief Executive of CPFT, said: “We are delighted to welcome NAS and ART to the Fulbourn site. The new centre will give us the opportunity to work closer with both organisations to help make a real difference to people with autism and their families. We are always looking to form new partnerships as part of our commitment to develop even closer relationships between our services and ground-breaking research.”

The new centre will also offer a range of services including increased support for adults on the autistic spectrum and meeting spaces for local organisations and groups who support those with the condition. People with autism will be encouraged to use the centre as a drop-in facility and find out information about employment, education and leisure opportunities. The CLASS clinic housed in the new centre will continue to accept national referrals.

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the NAS, said:  “This unique opportunity, made possible thanks to the generosity of The N Sethia Foundation, has enabled a number of organisations to work together to provide support for people with autism and their families. Autism is a lifelong and disabling condition, but with the right support, at the right time, people with autism can flourish.”


About autism:

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways.

Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. They have fewer problems with speech but still have difficulties with understanding people and social relationships. Their remarkable attention to detail can in some individuals lead to talents.

About the project's partners:

The Autism Research Trust (ART) exists to accelerate the pace of autism research and to complement governmental funding of autism research with philanthropic funding. ART exclusively supports the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. www.autismresearchtrust.org

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) provides mental health and specialist learning disability services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, along with children’s community services in Peterborough. CPFT employs 2,500 people across 75 sites in Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough and Fenland and is a member of Cambridge University Health Partners. www.cpft.nhs.uk

The National Autistic Society (NAS) is the UK's leading charity for people with autism and their families.  Founded in 1962, it continues to spearhead national and international initiatives and provides a wide range of services to help people with autism and Asperger syndrome live their lives with as much independence as possible. The NAS relies on the support of its members and donors to continue its vital work for people with autism. www.autism.org.uk 

The N Sethia Foundation was established in the UK in 1995 and its charitable work has been centred on medical research, the promotion of youth activities and disaster relief.  Following a substantial donation, the Chitra Sethia Centre for Robotics and Minimal Access Surgery was opened at University College Hospital in London recently, in memory of the late Mrs Chitra Sethia, providing surgeons with the facility to train in robotic surgery.  The Foundation has also gifted the British Cardiac Research Trust for clinical trials into early detection of heart disease.For more information please contact:

For more information: 
Chitra Sethia Autism Centre


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust
Elizabeth House, Fulbourn Hospital
Cambridge, CB21 5EF

T 01223 219400 (open 8:30am to 5pm)
F 01480 398501

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