Getting NHS diagnosis

Getting diagnosed and treated for ADHD can be a lengthy and difficult process, however, over the past 20 years there have been significant breakthroughs in research concerning adult ADHD. This research resulted in the 2008 NICE Guideline 72 that recommended the NHS (in England) should diagnose and treat ADHD in adults. The guideline recommends that patients should be referred to a specialist and that only they should diagnose or refuse the diagnosis of ADHD in Adults. Whilst the NHS has much that it does well, due to its size and bureaucracy it can take a long time to adapt to changes.  At the moment things are slowly improving, but largely due to lack of awareness, it can be difficult process to get a diagnosis.

The first step is to go to your GP and tell them your symptoms and ask for a referral to the ADHD specialist clinic. Both East and West Sussex have a specialist clinic to diagnose adults for ADHD, Autism, Tourettes and other neurodevelopmental conditions.

The NICE Guideline is very comprehensive and some of the key recommendations are:

  • Patients should be referred to a specialist psychiatrist to diagnose / refute diagnosis of Adult ADHD.
  • The first option (first line) for treatment is to prescribe methylphenidate (Ritalin) medication. This is a stimulant class of medication that is also available in long release versions (Concerta).
  • The second line of treatment is an anti-depressant class of medication called atomoxetine (Strattera). This medication is a Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (NRI).
  • ADHD specific cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be provided on a group basis if the patient meets any of the following:
    1. the patient still has symptoms whilst taking medication.
    2. the patient has made an informed choice to prefer non pharmacological treatments.
    3. the patient is struggling to come to terms with the diagnosis.
  • Other stimulant medications dexamphetamine, and lisdexamfetamine (Elvanse) are also available if methylphenidate proves to be ineffective.