UK children with ADHD waiting the longest in Europe for diagnosis because 'GPs doubt condition is real', warns report
A TEACHER who was finally diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) aged 32 praised the "life-changing" impact of medication, as a report today highlights that the UK has one of the poorest waiting times in Europe for a diagnosis.
Laura McConnell, a 34-year-old primary school teacher from Edinburgh, has spoken out about her own experience as more than half of sufferers surveyed for the report revealed that they had faced doubt from GPs, teachers, and school staff as to whether ADHD is even a real condition.
Ms McConnell said she was initially reluctant to take drugs, but immediately noticed the effects in relation to simple household chores which she had previously struggled to complete.
She said: "The first day that I took medication was a Saturday and I got up in the morning and cleaned my entire house in one go without having to have little breaks to 'mentally stimulate' and reward myself.
"It was in the midst of cleaning out the pot cupboard in my kitchen that I thought 'this is really unusual' - I've managed to focus for an entire day on something that I intended to do and I've not been distracted, I've not felt bored, and I've actually managed to achieve more than I even expected of myself.
"That's what medication has done for me. It's helped me to achieve things on a daily basis that I always had good intentions of doing."
As a teenager, Ms McConnell said she had developed anorexia and bulimia as a way of coping with ADHD, which made her feel misunderstood and isolated from her peers.
She said that she would like to see more training for teachers about ADHD, similar to the guidance offered on autism. She added: "I'm lucky to work with a really supportive group of teachers who are very open. However I have read in online forums scepticism among teachers about the existence of ADHD or scepticism about the causes of ADHD, or pushing the blame onto parents."
It comes as an expert report today revealed that nearly a third (28 per cent) of UK children with ADHD had waited two or more years from symptoms emerging to receiving a diagnosis, while 38 per cent had to visit the GP at least three times before being referred to a specialist.
Across Europe, patients in the UK wait 18 months on average from their first doctors appointment to an ADHD diagnosis, compared to less than 11 months on average in the EU and seven months in France, Germany and Spain.
The report warns that left untreated ADHD increases the risk of school exclusion, anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide.
Dr Tony Lloyd, CEO of the ADHD Foundation said: "Despite major efforts to improve the stigma around mental health across the UK and decades of scientific and clinical research around ADHD, we are continuing to fail thousands of children who have one of the most common mental health disorders.
"Ignoring ADHD is a potential time bomb for these children, placing them at risk of severe problems that may well burden them for their entire lives."
Most ADHD patients are treated without medication, but the latest statistics for Scotland show that the number of patients on drugs such as Ritalin in 2016/17 was 12,145, up 81 per cent from 6,711 in 2009/10.
The majority of patients are boys aged between 10 and 14.