The reality of NHS adult ADD / ADHD services


Yesterday I attended the second annual meeting of UKAAN (UK Adult ADHD Network), which is led by academics and funded by a leading pharmaceutical company (1).

It was very interesting to hear how local NHS adult services, all English, were coping with increased referrals of patients. What seems clear is that many people are screened out, often by so-called “gateway workers”, who tell patients that they do not “meet the criteria”.

When the NICE guidelines came out, I wondered if patients with ADD / ADHD would often be found to not “meet the criteria” on the basis that their condition was “only” mild. However, it looks as though a lot of mild and moderate ADD / ADHD is simply being diagnosed as “no ADD / ADHD”.

I have already seen many people with moderate-to-severe disorders, who should fall within the NICE guidelines, but have been told that they should stop “medicalising their past failures” and just get on with their lives.

The President of UKAAN, Professor Phil Asherson, told the meeting that in many areas services are being closed. This means that people who have been on waiting lists for months may end up being told that they will not be seeing a specialist after all.

I will be suggesting to ADDISS and AADD-UK that they consider telling their members and supporters about the reality of all this in greater detail and that, for those who can afford it, paying to see an independent specialist may be the best option for at least the next 2-3 years (2).



(1) There appeared to be no promotional activity at all within the meeting itself.

(2) “2-3 years” is based on the wide perception of how long the most intense NHS spending restraint may last.

Published at on 11th June 2010; transferred to on 10th October 2011

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About Dr Neil MacFarlane MRCPsych

Independent Psychiatrist providing culturally informed mental health opinion, advice, and a few new facts. Based near London, UK. Main qualifications: BA MBBS MA MRCPsych.

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