NHS launches ‘ADHD Taskforce’ amid soaring rates of condition, with patients having to wait up to 10 YEARS for a diagnosis

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A new NHS taskforce will tackle the growing burden of ADHD amid waits of up to ten years for a diagnosis, officials say.

It will bring together experts from health, education and justice to better understand the impact of the condition and improve care.

NHS England says an initial review identified issues with capacity, medication supply, a lack of reliable data and a postcode lottery in services.

Record numbers of Britons are thought to be seeking help after celebrities including model Katie Price and Love Island star Olivia Attwood shared their own ADHD ordeals.

Social media sites are also full of users telling how medication helped to calm them down, control their fidgeting and boost their concentration.

Sheridan Smith, 42, has revealed she has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (pictured in 2023)

Fascinating graphs show how ADHD prescriptions have risen over time, with the patient demographic shifting from children to adults with women in particular now driving the increase

Fascinating graphs show how ADHD prescriptions have risen over time, with the patient demographic shifting from children to adults with women in particular now driving the increase

The World Health Organization defines attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as being a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that has a direct negative impact on academic, occupational, or social functioning.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence estimates one in twenty children (5 per cent) and one in 29 adults (3 to 4 per cent) have the condition.

But NHS England believes the true figure may be higher.

It says it is unable to say how many people have a diagnosis or are waiting for an assessment because it does not have a consistent and complete dataset.

However, ADHD was the second most viewed health condition on the NHS website in 2023, after Covid-19, with 4.3million page views during the year.

Former Bake Off host Sue Perkins last year shared that she had been diagnosed and that 'suddenly everything made sense - to me and those who love me'

Love Island's Olivia Atwood (right) said ADHD made her 'constantly overwhelmed'

Former Bake Off host Sue Perkins (left) last year shared that she had been diagnosed and that ‘suddenly everything made sense – to me and those who love me’. Love Island’s Olivia Atwood (right) said ADHD made her ‘constantly overwhelmed’

Last year, Johnny Vegas (left) admitted he was in the 'early stages' of working through medication, after he was diagnosed with ADHD

Ben Fogle, who has previously spoken about being dyslexic, revealed this week that he was recently diagnosed with ADHD after a 'recent mental health storm'

Last year, Johnny Vegas (left) admitted he was in the ‘early stages’ of working through medication, after he was diagnosed with ADHD. Ben Fogle (right), who has previously spoken about being dyslexic, revealed this week that he was recently diagnosed with ADHD after a ‘recent mental health storm’

Herefordshire and Worcestershire integrated care board warned in board papers last July of ‘exceptionally high waiting times’ for ADHD assessment and treatment of ’10 years+’.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural condition defined by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

It affects around five per cent of children in the US. Some 3.6 per cent of boys and 0.85 per cent of girls suffer in the UK. 

Symptoms typically appear at an early age and become more noticeable as a child grows. These can also include:

  • Constant fidgeting 
  • Poor concentration
  • Excessive movement or talking
  • Acting without thinking
  • Inability to deal with stress 
  • Little or no sense of danger 
  • Careless mistakes
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Difficulty organising tasks
  •  Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • Inability to listen or carry out instructions 

Most cases are diagnosed between six and 12 years old. Adults can also suffer, but there is less research into this.

ADHD’s exact cause is unclear but is thought to involve genetic mutations that affect a person’s brain function and structure.

Premature babies and those with epilepsy or brain damage are more at risk. 

ADHD is also linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s and epilepsy.  

There is no cure. 

A combination of medication and therapy is usually recommended to relieve symptoms and make day-to-day life easier. 

Source: NHS Choices 

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And a separate survey the same month showed children in Coventry and Warwickshire are waiting an average of 142 weeks (almost three years) for all neurodiverse first appointments, which covers ADHD and autism.

Meanwhile, NHS data shows more than 230,000 people in England are now taking drugs to control their condition, with prescriptions up 5 per cent in a year.

NHS England announced the launch of the ADHD Taskforce at its board meeting this afternoon, saying it hoped to improve data collection and care.

Taskforce members and terms of reference will be published in the coming weeks and it is expected to produce a report later this year.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘NHS staff across the country are working hard to ensure all patients requiring assessments and further support from ADHD services are seen as promptly as possible.

‘We have recognised that that more needs to be done to ensure people can get a timely diagnosis and importantly, that all of their needs are addressed.

‘This is a hugely complex piece of work and this taskforce will need to consult a wide range of partner and experts, to understand more about the issues impacting those with ADHD and how service provision can be better joined up to meet people’s needs today and in the future.

‘This is a vital first step in helping us achieve real improvements in the ADHD services that the NHS and the independent sector provides.’

Steve Russell, chief delivery officer at NHS England, said: ‘Using the findings from the initial review, we will improve data collection to help us understand the scale of the challenge and work closely with the new cross-sector taskforce to improve pathways for patients with ADHD.’

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: ‘It is vital that people with ADHD not only receive a timely assessment and diagnosis, but also the support they need to live fulfilled lives.

‘We’re already exploring options to improve data collection and reporting on assessment waiting times, and this new taskforce is crucial to support this work to ensure they get faster, simpler and fairer care.

‘A better understanding of the issues facing people with ADHD will help us across Government and the NHS to address them, creating solutions over the long term.’

Actress Sheridan Smith is among the latest in a string of celebrities to share their diagnosis with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The 42-year-old, who shot to fame on The Royle Family as Antony’s girlfriend Emma,  told Vogue that it has helped her ‘make sense of a lot of things’ in her life and better understand her ‘brain’s background noise’.

Other celebs to have been diagnosed with ADHD include Sue Perkins, Johnny Vegas and Ben Fogle. 

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