The ADHD “scandal” my thoughts on the Panorama ADHD documentary

Let’s get this straight, I am disappointed in the BBC and Panorama for such a missed opportunity to demonstrate the struggles and lack of support for the ADHD community.

This is only my opinion but honestly, I was worried it would be far more invalidating to ADHD people than it was.

I am not saying that it has not caused huge amounts of upset, confusion and self-doubt for the ADHD community but the feeling I was left with is that the focus was very much on the clinics and unethical practice. Although as always, those who want to claim ADHD isn’t real will have found additional fuel for that fire…

PLEASE know – if you were diagnosed by one of these clinics, your diagnosis is valid, your self-knowledge is the most important aspect and if you were convinced enough to seek a private diagnosis… let’s just say people who are not struggling do not throw £100s or £1000s at assessment.

What I would like to make clear here as well is that people are not “paying for a diagnosis” people are paying for an assessment to find answers to something they know is causing them difficulties and distress. My belief is that no-one WANTS to be given a diagnosis of ADHD but they DO want to have some understanding of why they feel as though they cannot cope.

The reality is though, that people who DON’T have ADHD rarely spend, hours, weeks, even months researching and thinking about whether they do or not, let alone £100s-1000s on seeking private help if they just can’t wait the 3-7 (in some areas 10) year wait for an NHS assessment. THIS is why the vast majority of people who go for an assessment privately are given a diagnosis, because Adult ADHD, especially in women, has been vastly underdiagnosed for years.

My personal experience was private assessment and subsequent diagnosis through Psychiatry UK. I paid for this directly back in 2020 because I knew that I personally would not be able to think about anything else between my realisation and assessment and I couldn’t afford to hyperfocus on this to the detriment of my work (I know there will be 1000s other people in this situation as well)

The appointment itself was under an hour, but felt thorough, not like a tick box exercise, and I believe I was correctly supported through this assessment which clearly referenced the (very long) forms I had completed in advance of the appointment which was on zoom due to Covid.

A shortish, zoom assessment is entirely acceptable under the right circumstances and with the right practitioner.

It wasn’t the best experience, but this was more to do with being told not to medicate (so they weren’t trying to squeeze as much cash out of me as possible at the time) yet not adequately signposted to other sources of support. My point here – don’t assume that a quick appointment isn’t enough, it depends on the context, the approach of the psychiatrist and many other factors – if you had a quick appointment too, please don’t feel that this in any way invalidates YOUR experience and assessment/diagnosis.

The overarching problem is the drastically under diagnosed incidence of ADHD in adults (who couldn’t be diagnosed until 2008 in the UK) and the fact that there are estimated approximately 5% of people who have ADHD.

The way we learn now, is so much quicker (thank goodness!) due to the rise in social media and people sharing their experiences which are all too relatable, so the awareness of ADHD is rising more quickly than available NHS services are able to cope with. This is perhaps a clunky comparison, but think about the time pre Covid, the NHS was just about coping… we didn’t know about Covid, then it blindsided us, we all knew about Covid and the NHS was stretched to breaking point. It’s a similar scenario with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD (which YES can also be a life threatening condition!). Until recently, a huge proportion of people didn’t KNOW that they could have ADHD. As awareness and understanding is increasing, this means things are developing much more quickly as people identify traits they had no idea could be ADHD until recently.

This is leading to the huge surge (an increase of 400% in the number of people who are seeking assessment) which leaves the NHS unable to cope. (on that note though, I do hope that the NHS portion of the documentary was done as unpaid overtime… otherwise Panorama, and doctor you took away an appointment for someone who desperately needed access to this…)

And devastatingly, when there is a need for something, an opportunity arises for people to make money. It’s business across all industries and across the globe!

Devastatingly, the clear lack of care and thoroughness given to a group of people who are vulnerable, by people who are “mental health professionals” is shocking.

But in our current society, is it any surprise that when there is an opportunity for people to make money, they jump at it, ethics be damned?

In my mind this problem starts with society as a whole – that people who want to become richer and richer will do whatever it takes to be able to do this – even if there is an adverse effect on others.

I’m not saying it’s at all wrong to want an income, to have a successful business, but there appears to be SO MUCH exploitation of vulnerable people that this makes me feel sick.

I’m in danger of going off on a huge tangent here with a rant about society – but…

People are desperate right now. So desperate for an answer and support that they will pay to receive assessment for something to find out what’s going on.

It’s very hard to write this next sentence in a way which doesn’t sound like I’m invalidating someone’s diagnosis of ADHD, but the reality is, under this kind of quick fix private service, there will be some people who don’t have ADHD who are being diagnosed and medicated because they are operating a revolving door of as high a volume of people as possible. They are not taking the context or history into account and are slapping a convenient label on (almost) everyone.

BUT every single one of these people have something going on which is affecting them so much that they need help. Whether it’s ADHD or not, they need support. And this get rich quick by taking vulnerable peoples’ money and giving them a label approach to find out what’s really going on, rather than in depth support and care is unacceptable from people who have trained as mental professionals.

No-one WANTS a diagnosis of ADHD other than as an answer for the sometimes debilitating struggles they experience on a day to day basis. Whether they have ADHD, another neurodevelopmental or mental health condition, support for people who are suffering and struggling to stay afloat needs to be much more accessible.

We are society of stressed, overstretched, on the edge of burnout people. We are humans first, and in the wake of the pandemic, we’re at breaking point from collective trauma (even though it seems like life has gone back to “normal” we have still been hugely affected by Covid). We all experience some of the common traits of ADHD from time to time, especially when we’re stressed, so there’s no wonder that there are so many people looking for answers and getting “high” likelihood of ADHD on online tests.

Whether any one of these people has ADHD or not, they need help, support, compassion and NOT a battle cry from people that we’re making things up. We are human, with human experiences, we need to start acting with the best of human traits, rather than the worst and focus on true support and stop exploiting (shame on you anyone who is making money from vulnerable people, not that you’ll read this or care, but shame on you anyway).

I believe there is an opportunity for people who GENUINELY want to help the shockingly unsupported (undiagnosed) adult ADHD population to provide a service which is affordable, non-exploitative and quicker than the NHS is able to provide at the moment WITHOUT it costing as much as it does (and as someone who is already diagnosed, but not medicated and trying to speed this side up, I’m shocked at some of the quotes I’ve received for this too….)

Who out there is willing to take on this challenge? Surely you must be out there!

Panorama – a sadly missed opportunity to raise awareness and create more accessible support for people who need it instead of using NHS time, clearly setting up a staged appointment (I don’t know anyone who has had a 3 hour long appointment with the NHS as part of their assessment… because, the overstretched NHS workers don’t have time for this either!) then, I’m sure, picking the worst of the possible scenes as a contrast.

How about next time thinking more in-depth about what the “sensational” title you choose will do to cause harm to a community which already battles daily to be heard and understood. And how about a follow up on the true scandal – the lack of available care and support overall.

If you have an appointment booked with Psychiatry UK, or ADHD 360, or another private diagnostic service, please remember that the Panorama programme was intended to shock, cause outrage and conversation. These programmes don’t exist to “uncover” the brilliant work that so many places DO do, those things don’t make the news. If you are concerned or uncomfortable, please reach out to the company you have booked with and ask for more information about the process with them and options if you no longer feel this is the right route for you.


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