RCPsych responds to BBC Panorama programme on ADHD assessments

Statement / comment
16 May 2023

Following Panorama’s ‘Private ADHD Clinics Exposed’, which highlights that a growing number of people are turning to private clinics to determine whether they have ADHD, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has issued the following response.

Dr Mike Smith, specialist consultant psychiatrist in ADHD from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry Special Interest Group, said:

“I feel very sympathetic for all those people who are seeking help for potentially undiagnosed ADHD due to the extremely long NHS waiting times.

“I see many people in my clinics who’ve received a diagnosis from a private provider that we cannot accept due to concerns about quality. This is heartbreaking as I must tell them we cannot accept their diagnosis and they must be reassessed. This must change.

“We recognise that people desperately want to get seen, treated and move on with their lives, and some are willing to pay rather than wait. However, seeking help from providers who are not producing comprehensive assessment reports often means further pain for them.

“We must address the huge gap in NHS resources to see and treat all those who are coming forward as well as those who’ve already been waiting far too long. We also need to ensure that all services, both NHS and private, conducting ADHD assessments are working to high standards so that people are receiving high quality and safe care.”

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition but there are clear ways to detect, diagnose and treat it.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that a ‘diagnosis of ADHD should only be made by a specialist psychiatrist, paediatrician or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD.’

This assessment should include a discussion of the patient’s symptoms, a full review of their mental health history and consideration of information about the patient that has been supplied by people who know them. Healthcare professionals cannot prescribe medication safely without the information that is gathered by a proper assessment.

People who think they might have ADHD should contact their GP who will be able to refer them to a specialist ADHD service.

Some people will choose to get a private ADHD assessment. If this is something you choose to do, you can contact your specialist NHS Adult ADHD services. They should be able to tell you what their requirements are for accepting a private assessment. More information about how ADHD is assessed and treated can be found in the NICE guidelines.


The College has a resource concerning ADHD in adults, a new version of which will become available soon. A separate resource for parents and carers on ADHD and hyperkinetic disorder is also available.

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