by David Levy, ADHD Counselling UK Founder
BBC’s ‘Panorama’ episode – airing Monday 15th May 2023 with a revised title ‘Private ADHD Clinics Exposed’, which replaces its original more sensationalist title ‘The ADHD Scandal’ – has drawn considerable attention before air, with reactions ranging from panic to anger, to concern that the programme will further exacerbate an already sizable scepticism about the rapid growth in adult ADHD diagnosis.
Negative press and negative opinions about ADHD are nothing new. ‘Panorama’ itself was forced to issue an apology for its 2007 episode ‘What Next for Craig?’, which the BBC trust ruled failed to meet the expected standards of accuracy and impartiality. Recent articles published in The Sunday Times and Daily Mail took a dismissive, almost mocking tone, and given the programme’s original title, it is perhaps of no surprise that the episode is the source of considerable apprehension prior to air.
To be clear, ADHD is a disability and protected under the 2010 Equality Act which categorises disability as a ‘protected characteristic’, meaning laws around discrimination align with those for other protected characteristics such as gender identity, race, religion, sexuality, age, and so on. Nonetheless, neurodiversity is inexplicably allowed to be publicly eviscerated for clicks and viewers.
It’s entirely possible that there’s some, if not a lot, of maybe-ADHD bandwagon-jumping. However, what that should perhaps signify to the world is not how keen people might be for “the drugs” but should instead underline just how many people are struggling and looking for answers. It’s not just ADHD which has seen a rise – those seeking ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) assessment has seen a similar increase, as has growth in diagnosis of personality disorder, or in utilisation of mental health services more generally.
ADHD in adults is a relatively newly-recognised phenomena, appearing in distinct form for the first time in 1994’s edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is widely used for the diagnosing mental health conditions, and further revised in editions issued in 2000, 2013 and 2021. With increased awareness has come increased information and a rise in specialised support. Celebrities talk about it. ADHD is having a moment for sure.
If you believe you have ADHD, your first step is to contact your GP. In theory, you’re invited to have a discussed and referred to a specialist service, who then assesses you, diagnoses you, goes through the process of medication should you choose to take it, and passes you seamlessly back to your GP before you go on living your best life.
That’s the theory, anyway.
Anyone who has been through this process knows the reality.
It is not unusual for assessment wait times to be in the range of 18-24 months. In the south-east, waiting times for an assessment in Surrey have recently revealed to be up to four years, and up to five years in Sussex, during which time individuals are subject to difficulty and significant anxiety. Although some utilise the NHS’ right to choose to shorten the diagnostic pathway timeline, there remains an unacceptable failure of service, and a chronic shortage of practitioners able to diagnose what is, over-self-diagnosed or not, an evidently enormously under-diagnosed condition.
And so this brings us to private ADHD assessment. Unfortunately, where there is need there is opportunity, and there is certainly need. While the ‘Panorama’ show is likely to highlight the undoubted few providing services to vulnerable people who have emerged in recent times, the private route for diagnosis has become an unfortunate necessity with waiting times as they are.
If you or someone you know is seeking diagnosis for ADHD, please bear the following in mind:
- In the UK, a diagnosis of ADHD can only officially be given by Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists or specialist ADHD practitioners, such as mental health nurses who have done specific ADHD training.
- Ensure your practitioner is a member of the General Medical Council, and before undergoing private diagnosis, make your GP aware – they may have had experience with your chosen clinic previously.
- A private diagnosis costs in the region of £700-£1,000. If you decide to take medication following diagnosis, you can expect to be liable for an additional £50-150 per month in medication costs, in addition to paying approximately £150-£250 per appointment for follow-up sessions, while determining the appropriate type and dosage.
- Some ADHD-specific services such as ADHD 360 or Psychiatry UK offer services under ‘Right to Choose’ and are an existing referral source for NHS services. They also offer private diagnosis options, and assessment packages which include counselling support.
- Once diagnosed and the appropriate medication is found, a referral back to your GP is made which is known as a ‘Shared Care Agreement’. This means your GP is responsible for the dispensing of medication – and you pay the standard NHS charge of £9.65 – but if changes to your treatment need to be made, you will be referred back to the person who diagnosed you (and pay the appointment charge as previously).
- Your GP is under no obligation to accept a diagnosis, even if given by a qualified professional. Some GPs, albeit the seeming minority, insist on NHS diagnosis before agreeing to dispense ADHD medication.
While some may suggest the over-reporting and over-diagnosing of ADHD, what is undoubtedly underreported is the emotional impact surrounding diagnosis. Counselling support from a specialist with working or lived experience of ADHD is vital. Those diagnosed as adults will likely be faced with a different view of their past and a need to better understand the effects of medication. With education of their condition comes adjustments, the development of new skill, and acceptance and understanding of limitation.
Counsellors listed on www.adhdcounselling.uk are personally vetted by me specifically for their knowledge of the condition, and provide invaluable support to those going through this process as well as having an understanding of the practicalities of the ADHD diagnosis journey.