Unprecedented demand for ADHD assessments in Worcestershire means people are waiting years to get support.
Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care Trust said the county’s Community Paediatrics service faced an “unsustainable pressure” in referrals.
Nine-year-old Corey has an ADHD diagnosis and his family said medication had helped him at school. But they say they have been waiting five years for an autism assessment.
His dad said the long delay was emotionally draining.
The health and care trust said waiting times for all neurodivergence assessments had been made worse by an “unprecedented demand” for ADHD tests.
Thousands of adults in Worcestershire are currently seeking an assessment.
“People ask us why we’re pushing for [an autism] diagnosis. It’s because Corey’s known as the naughty kid, the disruptive kid, the mad kid… when he’s basically just a kid with extra needs,” said Corey’s father Adrian, of Stourport.
“I really don’t know why the NHS are dragging their feet,” he said.
“Any time you get an appointment, it’s then months before a follow up or letter.
“For the family it’s very hard. We feel with an autism diagnosis, he’ll get more help and more funding when he’s at school; more one-on-one time.”
Corey’s mother Sarah-Jayne said his medication had helped him concentrate better at school.
Many children in Herefordshire and Worcestershire may have to wait up to two years for an ADHD assessment, according to the area’s health and care trust.
At a board meeting this month, trust directors were told 60-70% of children referred to community paediatrics were presenting with a need for assessment for the disorder.
The trust said it was committed to reducing waiting times for all children, by increasing local capacity.
But it said providers across England were experiencing unprecedented demand.
It added children with the greatest need would be offered an appointment within two to eight weeks.
‘I’d never considered it’
Since the pandemic, more and more adults have also sought an assessment for ADHD.
An investigation by the national charity ADHD UK, external in October revealed more than 2,300 adults in Herefordshire and Worcestershire were waiting for assessment, with the longest wait at 108 weeks.
“I’d never considered it in my entire life. I thought ADHD related to children at school who struggled to concentrate. I’m almost 42,” said Neil Lawrenson, a Green city councillor in Worcester who received an ADHD diagnosis this month.
“The more I read, the more I realised the symptoms were applicable to me: struggling to concentrate, timekeeping, receiving verbal instructions,” he said.
Rather than wait up to two years for an NHS assessor, Neil Lawrenson said he had made use of the NHS’s “Right to Choose” programme, external, which allows patients waiting more than 18 weeks for assessment to switch to an alternative provider such as a private or online practice.
“I’m at a point in my life when I feel that I need adjustments made, so that I can cope better in the workplace and [as] an all-round better human being.
“I think that because we’ve got this huge increase in demand for assessments, the NHS needs to think nationally about a different model for how we diagnose and assess people,” said Christine Price, chief officer of Healthwatch Herefordshire.
The patient body has just published research on the challenges of living with ADHD in the county, which highlighted a need for greater advocacy and support for adults and children, including reasonable adjustments from employers.
“Post diagnosis it’s quite difficult to get the support you need… from a therapeutic point of view… or with reasonable adjustments that people with ADHD would find helpful,” Ms Price said.
The health and care trust said it encouraged families with any concerns about the length of time they had been waiting to contact the service directly, so it could discuss the status of their child’s assessment.