BBC’s ADHD private diagnosis scandal is the perfect example of irresponsible reporting
By now, you’re probably aware that the BBC is positioning itself as a whistle-blower in a scandal regarding the misdiagnosis of ADHD by private psychiatrists. While I am reticent to say that it doesn’t happen (of course it does, humans are awfully inexact creatures and psychiatry barely qualifies as a science), there are wider ramifications for this article that could go on to cause a great deal more harm than those at the centre of it can realise.
Service wait times for adult ADHD assessments are at an all-time high. Despite an NHS Constitution that states patients have right to access treatment within 18 weeks of a GP referral, some people are waiting in excess of 13 months. It isn’t surprising then that of the estimates over 1 million ADHD’ers in the UK, less than 10% are diagnosed (see link above).
All of this creates a tricky choice for those with the privilege of being able to access private assessment; continue to struggle unsupported, or pay to get your diagnosis privately.
Let’s step back for a moment and consider some issues that are pervasive across both NHS and private services. Psychiatry doesn’t just uphold the medical model of disability, they played a big role in creating it. The neurodiversity movement stands diametrically opposed to this pathologising of our existence. You won’t find neurodiversity affirmation all that common in any area of psychiatry, let alone cultural competence.
So, now we have an environment in which people are so desperate to get support that they will be willing to part with hundreds or even thousands of pounds fkr the privilege of being boxed into a pathological worldview in order to access said support.
Did I mention there isn’t really much support for ADHD beyond maybe getting ADHD medication?
Quite frankly, the diagnostic process is a nightmare. Very few professionals have a good grasp on neurodivergent experience and culture, and their diagnostic criteria are often restrictive and biased. The problem is not that diagnosis is too easy to obtain. If anything, it should be easier.
So when I see articles like the one the BBC has published, it turns my stomach to think of the effect it might have on an already broken system. Responsible reporters would not publish a piece like this in the manner that they have. What people will take away from it is that private ADHD diagnosis is a scam. It will justify the invalidation of many people’s diagnosis while simultaneously trapping those seeking diagnosis; should we choose between NHS waiting times and misdiagnosis or pay for a diagnosis that we might not receive and that no one will take seriously?
The deeper part of the problem is that people die because they don’t have the right diagnosis. If the BBC wanted to report on a diagnostic scandal, they could have chosen the complete lack of competency and up-to-date knowledge in those denying people diagnoses based on outdated stereotypes. Instead, they have risked erasing people.
With all of the pressures that exist for undiagnosed neurodivergent people, we should be helping them access support, not taking a blow torch to the already very thin ice they are standing on.
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