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NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups are being urged to review their spending on child and adolescent mental health in order to improve the lives of young people who have been newly diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Dr Tony Lloyd, CEO of the ADHD Foundation, wants the health service to reduce the risk and cost of these young people developing related mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, which can lead to self-harm and even suicide. 

In 2013, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported that the number of prescriptions for drugs used to treat ADHD had doubled in England in the past six years. As a result, it warned medical professionals to monitor use of methylphenidate medication. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that treatment should be multi-modal and include psycho-social skills-based training and cognitive behavioural therapy as a first line of treatment before medication is considered.

Although NICE recommends that medication should only be prescribed for ADHD for those with the most severe form of the condition, The ADHD Foundation says that evidence acquired via freedom of information requests suggests that access to multi-modal support and training for those living with ADHD is very limited in many parts of the UK.

The Foundation says that an escalation in the number of children with mental health problems and an increase in children being diagnosed with neurodisabilities such as ADHD is stretching NHS resources to the limit. A growing number of young people are having to wait for up to two years for an ADHD or autistic spectrum diagnosis and even when they have been diagnosed, they are struggling to access post-diagnostic support. 

“This huge shortfall in support and training means that the outcomes for children with ADHD and ASD are extremely alarming, with almost half suffering from long-term mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression” says Dr Lloyd. 

Data published recently shows an increase of 41 per cent in the number of children presenting at accident and emergency departments after self harming. Other research suggests that as many as one in five of those with ADHD will attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

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