Advising with empathy and experience

Children at risk from ADHD diagnosis delays.

Slow, complicated delays in diagnosing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are putting UK children at risk, a survey report has found.

Nearly a third of children wait two or more years to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Most families felt ADHD wasn't recognised as ‘a real condition’ by the GPs, school staff and specialists they encountered.

The ADHD Foundation called for urgent change, saying the current system "fails thousands of children.”

ADHD is the most common behavioural disorder in children - affecting 3-5%, or one child in every classroom.

Those who have the condition are often easily distracted or forgetful. They find it hard to concentrate and sit still, and may blurt things out rather than wait their turn.

The ADHD Foundation's chief executive, Tony Lloyd, said: "Ignoring ADHD is a potential time bomb for these children, placing them at risk of severe problems that may well burden them for their entire lives."

He was one of a number of experts that advised the A Lifetime Lost, or A Lifetime Saved report, which surveyed 32 adults, and the parents or guardians of 72 children diagnosed with the disorder, across the UK.

A consultant paediatrician at Lisburn Hospital, Northern Ireland, Dr Matthew McConkey, said: "ADHD remains chronically under-diagnosed, and access to services and treatment in the UK is woefully inconsistent.

“Long-term solutions must be put in place by the NHS to ensure no child falls through the gaps. This includes improving the patient journey to diagnosis and challenging the stigma prevalent throughout healthcare."

As well as lengthy delays, the survey also found nine-in-10 children felt depressed or anxious while waiting to see a specialist. Almost half considered self-harming, and more than a third were temporarily excluded from school.

Another recent study found that on average British children spent 18 months from their first doctor visit to receiving a formal ADHD diagnosis, compared with an 11-month delay across the EU.

The report found that this was because patients often needed to see a GP multiple times before being referred to a specialist and, once they have a referral, it could take anywhere between two and 55 weeks to get an appointment.

An NHS England spokesperson said: "Funding for children and young people's mental health has been increased by £100m and is now rising faster than the overall budget.

"The NHS is implementing new best practice guidance to improve care for young people with ADHD which will include better and faster diagnosis."