The BBC’s recent bad news, about Panorama’s flawed ADD / ADHD programmes (1), seems to have been buried by the general pre-election media coverage. I have been assured that the BBC Trust’s delayed decision (itself still a subject of the complaints process) was not deliberate “news management” timing; but myself and ADDISS did find it interesting last year that the initial recognition of a problem with the 2007 programme was made public in early August (2), a traditionally quiet time when press releases often don’t get followed up.
Therefore it may take some months to discover the changes, if any, to the way mental health and behavioural disorder issues are now dealt with by the BBC.
For me, the problem with the 2007 programme (3) was not just the one-sided presentation of research on medication. It was the avoidance of any exploration of why Craig, the teenager whose ADHD and perhaps other problems caused him to end up in Court, was not receiving any input from local NHS services. No local professionals or managers were questioned (they were in the 2000 programme), and the interview with NICE’s Dr Tim Kendall was extremely limited.
By making the overall issue about medication, rather than local services, the 2007 programme in effect promoted the Department of Health’s policy that specialist mental health services are focused on “severe and enduring” problems, and can therefore exclude moderate and mild ones. This policy has now been in place for nearly two decades and has undoubtedly removed billions of pounds from the DOH’s “frontline services” balance sheet. However, many ADD / ADHD specialists believe that failure to intervene earlier, in these less severe disorders, results in substantial financial costs later in terms of underemployment, prison places, and adult mental health problems. Dr Kendall might have been asked some difficult questions on NICE’s narrow money-orientated evaluation process, but that didn’t happen.
Perhaps Panorama has unbroadcasted material which would throw light on all this. A fuller review of the reasons for the “unfair and not open-minded” programme might also include emails and other communications from and to the Department of Health (4).
(1) See my previous blog post (5th March)
(3) The BBC Trust ordered the programme to be removed from the BBC website. Today, weeks later, I was still able to view it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/win/hearing/alt/panorama/sub_3.shtml . It has also been placed on YouTube as “A Panorama report on the life of a young child hooked on medication prescribed for his so called ADHD condition. “
(4) I remain open to a range of explanations for the problems with the programmes; and I am not suggesting that Panorama deliberately colluded with the Department of Health, to be misleading.