Unveiling Ethical Challenges in Private ADHD Clinics: Implications for Diagnosis and Treatment.

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In a recent episode of BBC Panorama titled “Private ADHD Clinics Exposed,” concerns were raised about the practices and ethical considerations surrounding private clinics that diagnose and treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The episode shed light on some controversial aspects of these clinics, generating discussions about the implications for individuals seeking ADHD assessment and treatment.

In this blog post, we aim to delve deeper into the issues highlighted in the documentary, examine the potential consequences for patients, and explore the importance of ensuring ethical standards within the ADHD diagnostic process. We will also try to show what the reality is for those trying to get a diagnosis through the NHS, why they might turn to private services and what more can be done to ensure those who are trying to get an assessment are helped to do so.

Reporter Rory Carson was assessed for ADHD by four different organisations – including the NHS.

Image shows Rory in their kitchen wearing a striped shirt and a blue beanie hat. Rory has a beard. Behind a Rory is the kitchen counter top with various items like the kettle and toaster on the right to the left of Rory is a window with the blinds drawn down.

Understanding ADHD:

Before delving into the specifics, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of ADHD.
ADHD is a neuro developmental, disorder characterised by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that can significantly impact an individual’s daily life and functioning. Accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to helping those with ADHD manage their symptoms effectively and help people live well with their diagnosis. 

The Concerns Raised:

The Panorama documentary emphasises several concerns regarding private ADHD clinics. It highlighted instances where the diagnostic process appeared to lack rigor and thoroughness, potentially leading to misdiagnosis or over diagnosis. 
Such practices can have far-reaching consequences for individuals who may receive unnecessary medication or interventions that do not address their specific needs. Additionally, the program questioned the motivations of some private clinics, suggesting that financial gain might be prioritized over patient well-being. This concern raised questions about the ethical standards followed by these clinics and emphasised the importance of transparency and accountability in the ADHD diagnostic process.

ADHD UK discuss the steps to getting a diagnosis. Step one is to use an online screening tool. Which is a survey is intended for individuals to complete independently, providing an indication of whether they could potentially have ADHD and would thus benefit from additional clinical evaluation. Remember that ONLY a clinician can accurately diagnose ADHD. Getting a score of 4 or above on the test Is a good indicator that you would benefit from a clinical assessment. You can learn more about here: https://adhduk.co.uk/diagnosis-pathways/

The reality for so many is that with NHS resources being so stretched getting an assessment can be extremely difficult. Step 2 says go to your GP and engage in an open and honest conversation about your reasons for suspecting ADHD and discuss any other mental health concerns you may have. The objective is to address your issues comprehensively, extending beyond a mere “ADHD or not” discussion.

Following this conversation, you and your GP may decide to proceed with a referral for an NHS ADHD Assessment.

It’s important to inquire about the estimated waiting time for the assessment, allowing you to In the event that your GP refuses to provide a referral, you can consider the following options on the ADHD UK website. explore alternative options if necessary.

The third step involves having an assessment, which should cover your overall mental health, an assessment of if you have ADHD, and an assessment if you might have any other related or unrelated mental health conditions. This was something which the journalist in the documentary did when meeting with the NHS to discuss things before meeting with the 3 private assessment providers.  In the UK you have the right to choose mental healthcare provider and your choice of mental healthcare team. This means that should you want to reduce the waiting time to get an assessment, then you can look for alternative providers. You can also look at private options which do of course come with the added cost that you would not have on the NHS. 

Once you have had an assessment steps 4 and 5 look at helping you manage your ADHD through shared care or care through your GP. 

Ensuring Ethical Practices:

To safeguard the interests and well-being of individuals seeking ADHD diagnosis and treatment, it is essential to establish clear ethical guidelines and practices within the private clinic setting. These guidelines should ensure that professionals conducting assessments have the necessary qualifications, training, and experience in diagnosing ADHD. Rigorous diagnostic procedures, including comprehensive evaluations and multidisciplinary assessments, can help reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.

Transparency and informed consent play a vital role in maintaining ethical practices. Individuals should be provided with accurate information about the diagnostic process, potential risks and benefits of medication, alternative treatment options, and long-term management strategies. Informed consent empowers patients to make well-informed decisions about their healthcare and fosters a trusting relationship between patients and healthcare professionals.

In an article by HuffPost, they highlighted some of the views shared online following the broadcast of the documentary. Some individuals have expressed concerns about the honesty of the reporting and have questioned the responses given by the reporter, particularly in relation to the diagnosis of ADHD. It is important to consider different perspectives and opinions on this matter while maintaining a balanced and non-judgmental approach.

These discussions further emphasise the need for transparency and accountability within the ADHD diagnostic process. It is crucial for all parties involved, including reporters, professionals, and clinics, to adhere to ethical guidelines and ensure the integrity of their practices. This ongoing dialogue serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining rigorous standards in ADHD diagnosis and treatment, and the need for continued efforts to ensure the well-being and trust of individuals seeking care. 

You can read the full article by HuffPost here: www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/bbc-panorama-adhd-diagnosis-twitter_uk_64621f2fe4b018d846bf19ee

Collaboration and Accountability:

Collaboration between private clinics, general practitioners, and mental health specialists is crucial to ensure holistic and comprehensive care for individuals with ADHD. Open lines of communication and sharing of information can help prevent fragmentation of care and ensure that patients receive appropriate interventions tailored to their specific needs.

Accountability mechanisms, such as regular audits and monitoring, can help identify any potential issues within private ADHD clinics. Regulatory bodies and professional organizations should work together to establish clear guidelines, standards, and oversight procedures to maintain ethical practices and protect patient well-being.

Jade, co-founder of the Jade Disability Expo diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, expressed her perspective on the BBC documentary. She believed that the documentary placed excessive emphasis on the length of time the National Health Service (NHS) assessment should take. According to her own experience, the assessment process was indeed extensive, but it did not require the three hours mentioned in the film.

Jade also highlighted the discrepancy between private organisations and the NHS when it comes to treatment options. While private clinics tend to swiftly offer prescriptions as a primary solution, the NHS provisions often explore alternative treatments, such as talking therapies. Jade emphasised that cost is a factor to consider in the treatment process following assessment.

Having the option of alternative treatments is crucial for several reasons. First, not all individuals respond to medication in the same way, and what works for one person may not be effective for another. By offering a range of treatment options, including talking therapies, the NHS recognises the need for individualised approaches to care. Alternative treatments can focus on addressing underlying causes, developing coping mechanisms, and enhancing overall well-being.

Furthermore, alternative treatments provide individuals with a sense of agency and control over their own healthcare decisions. By involving patients in the treatment process and considering their preferences, the healthcare system empowers individuals to actively participate in their own well-being. This personalized approach acknowledges the unique journey of each person and fosters a more comprehensive understanding of their situation.

Jade said that while she understands that long waits on the NHS create the need for people to seek private solutions to get support and help. It’s questionable to suggest that someone willing to pay over £500 for this support wouldn’t have ADHD. It’s like the majority of people going to an opticians needing glasses. If there are symptoms and struggles associated with ADHD there is a strong chance that the person has it. ADHD is as genetic as height or eye colour to state that there is an over diagnoses of ADHD is a strong statement a lot of work is still needed in raising awareness and getting appropriate support for those that need it.


The BBC Panorama documentary has shed light on the concerns surrounding private ADHD clinics and emphasises the need for ethical practices in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD. Ensuring that individuals receive accurate diagnoses, appropriate interventions, and ongoing support is essential for their well-being and long-term success. By establishing rigorous guidelines, promoting transparency, fostering collaboration, and implementing accountability mechanisms, we can strive to create a system that prioritises patient care and upholds ethical standards in the ADHD diagnostic process. However, what the documentary fails to do is highlight the inequality in NHS provision and the challenges faced by people trying to get a diagnosis and related support that is being delayed because they can’t access an assessment in a timely manner. 

Chandy Green
Chandy Green

Chandy is a disability and mental health campaigner with a passion for helping people know more about disability rights and how to be an ally for disabled people. He has a degree in social work and has just finished his MA in human rights. Chandy works with various organisations to help educate students in health, social care, and related professions to understand the social model of disability. As well as being our advocate, Chandy is heavily involved in the content creation for Social Media.

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