BBC Panorama Episode – Our Response

Below is our response to the recent BBC Panorama episode “Private ADHD Clinics Exposed”, which originally aired on 15 May 2023:

Dear BBC,

We, the Board of ADHD Aware, are writing to express our extreme disappointment regarding the recent Panorama programme featuring Rory Carson, which aired on BBC1 on 15 May 2023 at 8pm. The programme suggests there is an ADHD scandal and claimed that ADHD is being falsely diagnosed leading to over-diagnosis through private ADHD assessment companies in the UK.

We find the programme to be highly misleading and damaging. While the programme raises valid concerns about certain private healthcare providers engaging in unethical practices (albeit with a very small sample size of only three providers), this issue is not exclusive to ADHD but rather a critique of private healthcare provision in general. By exclusively focusing on healthcare related to ADHD, which falls under the category of mental health or neurodivergent conditions, the program wrongly undermines and discredits the significant progress made by healthcare services in raising awareness about ADHD over the past decade and its substantial impact on individuals’ lives.

Specifically, the programme:

1. Fails to explain what ADHD is and how it affects different people.

2. Neglects to provide reasons for the increase in ADHD diagnoses, such as a wider improved understanding of how ADHD affects different individuals and the rising number of women being diagnosed later in life. Consequently, the strain on the NHS has increased, leading individuals to seek private assessments or the NHS referring patients for assessment under the ‘Right to Choose’ scheme.

3. Omits the fact that any private psychiatrist in the UK is also a NHS psychiatrist, as doctors in the UK cannot exclusively operate in the private sector and are NHS registered.

4. Fails to mention that many private healthcare companies have offices on Harley Street in London for prestige, but do not conduct appointments there, so this is not exclusive to private ADHD assessment companies.

5. Neglects to highlight the assumption of good faith in the assessment process by those being tested.

6. Fails to clarify that most private companies require a GP referral, with GPs conducting initial assessments before a proper ADHD assessment can be carried out by a psychiatrist.

7. Lacks any disclaimer for patients who have received a diagnosis from the three mentioned private companies and the potential harm this portrayal may cause them.

The programme implies negative perceptions of individuals who have received an ADHD diagnosis through private companies. This invalidation of people’s diagnoses is not only harmful and discriminatory but also contributes to serious health inequalities.

We strongly believe that this programme should not have been aired on the BBC and kindly request its removal from BBC iPlayer services.

Yours faithfully,

ADHD Aware Board

Please find linked below a research paper entitled “Failure of Healthcare Provision for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the United Kingdom: A Consensus Statement” from Frontiers in Psychiatry:

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