ADHD diagnosis delays 'a disgrace'

A WAITING time of up to 18 months in Suffolk for disruptive children to be assessed by specialists has been branded an “absolute disgrace” by a council leader and “unacceptable” by the Government.

Graham Dines

A WAITING time of up to 18 months in Suffolk for disruptive children to be assessed by specialists has been branded an “absolute disgrace” by a council leader and “unacceptable” by the Government.

Although the health authority is working to a target of between two and 18 weeks from next March, scores of children are currently in limbo because of the delays in diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Concerns have been raised at a meeting of Suffolk County Council's ruling executive, when members were told of the extraordinary length of the waiting time.


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Peter Bellfield, the Conservative councillor for Suffolk Coastal Carlford division, raised the case of one family who had been waiting since last August and were unlikely to be seen before the end of the year at least.

“It is taking 18 months for children to see a specialist to confirm they have ADHD. I find it utterly appalling that a section of the primary care trust is not supporting the many vulnerable children in Suffolk,” said Mr Bellfield.

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“Meanwhile these children remain in mainstream education and can they can have a huge disruptive effect on other pupils.

“My constituent is number 87 on the waiting list. This is totally unacceptable. Pressure needs to be put on the PCT - we should be pressing it to ensure youngsters are seen in no more than four weeks from referral.”

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke added: “The health minister has given the PCT the money to ensure the children are properly diagnosed. It is an absolute disgrace that the waiting time is so long.”

A county council spokesman said the authority had invested resources with schools and, with targeted grant from the Government, in primary mental health workers. This was helping with preventative and early intervention support, but he acknowledged: “There is still a long waiting time for more specialist interventions.”

ADHD refers to a range of problem behaviours associated with poor attention span. These may include impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity, as well as inattentiveness, and often prevent children from learning and socialising well.

Tracy Dowling, director of strategic commissioning at NHS Suffolk, said: “We have secured extra funding to reduce waiting times for ADHD cases by ensuring locums and additional staff can start to tackle the backlog.

“This is the result of an increased demand for the treatment, and an unexpected delay in filling specialist vacancies in the appropriate medical and nursing posts, including consultant paediatricians.

“A plan for additional long-term investment is also now in progress. To make the improvements needed, we have reviewed the current service and are working with our partners in Suffolk Community Healthcare and Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust to develop plans for a robust service for the future.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Long waits for referral and treatment of any kind disorders, such as ADHD, are not acceptable. There has already been considerable recent improvement in the delivery and quality of Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) however, there is still regional variation and more work to be done.

“The recent independent CAMHS Review set out a number of important changes to take place over the next three to five years, to improve children and young people's mental health and psychological wellbeing.”

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