BBC Panorama documentary on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) private clinics - response

Updated: 6 June 2023

Dr Mike SmithThis is a response to the BBC Panorama documentary Private ADHD Clinics Exposed from Dr Mike Smith, consultant psychiatrist and clinical lead for the Leeds Adult ADHD Service.

The BBC has provided its own response to feedback about the programme. You can read it on their website.

Adult ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood.

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty focusing, controlling impulsive behaviours, or may be overly active.

It can affect various aspects of an individual’s life, including their work, relationships, and daily activities.

It’s important to understand that ADHD is not a result of personal failure or lack of discipline, but a real, medical condition that requires attention and support.

Adult ADHD can often be successfully managed with a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes. Diagnosis and treatment can be complex due to overlapping symptoms with other conditions. Effective treatments are available from the NHS and other providers of services who follow the (NICE) National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: diagnosis and management guidance.

The Leeds Adult ADHD service is hosted by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Mike Smith is a consultant psychiatrist and the clinical lead for the Leeds Adult ADHD Service. Dr Smith 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 a 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 heart breaking 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.”

The Leeds ADHD Service provides assessment for adults (over 18s) with suspected ADHD. A diagnosis can usually be made after 1-2 appointments with one of their clinicians. Following diagnosis, treatment is offered either in the form of medication or other therapies such as group work to develop new skills.

Dr Smith added: “ADHD services across the nation have seen a steady increase in demand over recent decades. In Leeds we now typically receive over 200 referrals per month. This far exceeds our capacity as a service. We’re working to address this both within our Trust and with regional and national commissioners of NHS services.

“There are currently approximately 3,300 people on our list awaiting a diagnostic assessment. Those getting booked in now were referred to the service in December 2020. This waiting period is accurate for those at the front of the waiting list but will be several years longer for those who have been more recently referred. Due to the gap between demand and capacity, this waiting time is expected to increase moving forward.

“In addition, there are approximately 220 people on our medication initiation waiting list. We are currently booking appointments for people who were added to the list in December 2021.”

There are links to approved resources for adults who might be struggling with ADHD on the Leeds ADHD Service website.

Further reading

Dr Mike Smith has also published an opinion piece in The Guardian called Is it really too easy to be diagnosed with ADHD?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has published its own reaction statement to the documentary on its website.

For more information please contact:

The Communications team

Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

T: 0113 85 55989


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