ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:33 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:33 pm, 15th May 2018

My hon. Friend will be aware that we have addressed those issues in the Green Paper. We are investing in a whole new workforce in support of CAMHS, which will have a direct relationship with schools, where it will be possible for a lot of the wraparound help to take place.

I would like to make some progress on the specifics of ADHD and move on from CAMHS. The hon. Member for Leigh highlighted the massive variation in services across the country. I fully acknowledge that there are long delays for some to see a specialist and secure a diagnosis. That will clearly have a negative impact on those living with ADHD and their families, who can also find the experience confusing.

We are determined to see improvements in the patient journey. There are NICE guidelines. The earlier the diagnosis the better, and the better the chance of getting the right support and better outcomes for the individual. The NICE guidelines were published in 2016 and set out the process for managing ADHD for people aged three years and above. The guidelines aim to improve the diagnosis of ADHD, as well as the quality of care and support for people with an ADHD diagnosis.

An updated guideline was published in March this year, which particularly addresses under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis of ADHD in girls. People think it is just about behaviour, but in girls it does not play out in exactly that way; there is a lot to be done in education on exactly what this condition is. As the hon. Lady said, people think it is about bad parenting or bad behaviour when it is much more complex. The guidelines advise practitioners to be alert in such circumstances to the possibility of ADHD. We will be failing girls if we do not raise awareness of how that might be playing out.

The guidelines also recommend that people with ADHD would benefit from improved organisation of care and better integration of child health services, CAMHS and adult mental health services. Although NICE clinical guidelines are not mandatory, we expect health and care professionals and commissioners to take them into account fully as they design and put in place services to meet the needs of their local populations. NICE has published a range of tools to help local areas put the guidance into practice, but that is clearly not happening everywhere. I always find that sunlight is the best disinfectant, so the more we can do to ensure transparency, the better. That is why data is so important, as the hon. Member for Leigh said.

The NICE guidelines do not at this time recommend a waiting time for seeing a specialist for diagnosis, but they do recommend that parents of children whose behaviour is suggestive of ADHD should be offered a referral to group-based ADHD-focused support without waiting for a formal diagnosis. That will clearly be helpful, but we should also look at the waiting times.

An issue that I am particularly concerned about—I look forward to engaging with the APPG on this—is support for schools, which the hon. Lady mentioned. Getting the right support package for children with ADHD can be challenging for some institutions. I am concerned that anecdotal evidence suggests that people are being excluded disproportionately, so we really need to tackle that discrimination. Perhaps I can ask the APPG what we can do together to give schools extra support and better advice about how to support children with this condition, rather than simply marginalise them.

The Children and Families Act 2014 and the special needs code of practice set out ways in which care services should join up, and we need to hold them to account. We expect CCGs and local authorities to work together to support children with special educational needs or disabilities, including ADHD. That includes co-ordinating assessments of individual needs and, for those with the greatest needs, providing an individual education, health and care plan. I am interested in hearing evidence from the APPG about how many children are not receiving such plans.

I am not going to stand here and pretend that everything is perfect, because I know perfectly well that it is not, but we have the opportunity to highlight good practice, help local authorities and CCGs to learn from it, and highlight when people are being failed.