BBC's ADHD Documentary Has Raised A Lot Of Eyebrows – And Not About The Clinics
Reporter Rory Carson was assessed for ADHD by four different organisations – including the NHS
There’s a lot of fuss about getting an ADHD diagnosis on social media right now – and for good reason.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a lifelong neurological condition, where an individual usually displays inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
It can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010.
ADHD has become a common talking point on platforms like TikTok and Instagram with many of those who have it sharing what their telltale symptoms were.
More than 20 billion TikToks have been shared with the hashtag #ADHD and according to the BBC, there’s been a rise in the number of people seeking assessment over the condition.
But over the weekend, the online conversation escalated after a BBC reporter shared a Panorama investigation showing how he had been diagnosed with it three times by three different private clinics.
Although he’s been criticised online for lying about his symptoms, Rory Carson repeatedly states that he believes he was showing some signs of the condition when he decided to be professionally assessed for ADHD.
The private clinics, Harley Psychiatrists, ADHD Direct and ADHD 360, all offered him a prescription for ADHD medication as a result.
But, after a more in-depth assessment with the NHS – three hours face-to-face where the specialist knew that they would be on camera – Carson was found not to have ADHD.
The reporter said he was honest with the private clinics and the NHS when they were assessing him.
The Panorama investigation, set to air on Monday night, concluded that private clinics were carrying out limited mental health assessments, prescribing strong drugs for long-term use without advising patients about the side effects or thinking about their medical history.
It also claimed that the NHS is paying for thousands to go to private clinics for assessment, and anyone posting negative reviews of those clinics were threatened with legal action by the private practice.
But, people were pretty furious with the BBC for covering the topic in this way.
Some suggested that the idea it was too “easy” to get an ADHD diagnosis was questionable in itself.
The whole “it’s become too easy to get an ADHD diagnosis” thing is weird should it be hard to get a medical diagnosis? Should we have to do one of those inflatable on water obstacle courses first? You have to fight another neurodivergent person to the death to win the title?
— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) May 15, 2023
Others questioned the nature of the investigation and why Carson was surprised with his results with the private clinics.
man describes ADHD symptoms to doctor, is shocked when diagnosed with ADHD, it's the children who are wrong https://t.co/cJQoVK5Uf8
— cait (@punished_cait) May 15, 2023
Others quickly pointed out that this is just another sign that the NHS is deeply underfunded and overstretched.
The core issue here is not private clinics "overdiagnosing" ADHD in desperate patients but the chronic underfunding of the NHS, which means assessment queues are now 5 years in parts of the country. The private sector was always going to capitalise on the gutting of the NHS. pic.twitter.com/BMcv1yYAAf
— Diyora Shadijanova (Диёра Шадижанова) (@thediyora) May 15, 2023
And that the conditions Carson was assessed under were different for the private clinics compared to the NHS.
I'll also reiterate that the NHS knew this was happening for telly. They sent their head of ADHD. A leading specialist who administered, frankly the best and most thorough NHS assessment I've ever heard of. I've no doubt that it is correct. I just wish everyone could have that.
— Geraint Evans is: AuDHD (@GeraintWorks) May 15, 2023
Then, there’s the argument which is that more people are getting diagnosed due to the growing amount of information out there about the condition.
The BBC "investigation" into ADHD is really annoying. More people are getting diagnosed with ADHD because there is a growing awareness that adult ADHD exists and its symptoms are different to ADHD in children. Therefore, more people who have it can finally get the right diagnosis
— Ellie Mae O'Hagan (@elliemaeohagan) May 15, 2023
Others also suggested that the documentary jumped over the enormous waiting lists that many people face when trying to get a diagnosis.
My only comment here is that we had to wait over 5 years for an appointment for our son, after which he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 5 years since the health visitor first referred him.
What the fuck is panorama doing? https://t.co/5mOY7sBPRk
— lewis (@lemitchebsk) May 15, 2023
imagine a documentary that centred the lengths families have had to go to to fund private diagnoses & treatment for *real* experiences of ADHD because of lengthy waiting lists, or a doc charting what happens when someone has to wait a year+ for help.
— Sophia Smith Galer (@sophiasgaler) May 15, 2023
friendly reminder to everybody including the BBC that the reason almost everybody who goes for a private adhd assessment comes away with a diagnosis is that you probably wouldn’t bother paying £500+ for an assessment for something you weren’t pretty certain you had
— ellie middleton 🌻 (@elliemidds) May 12, 2023
Of course, not everyone was frustrated with the investigation.
This is fascinating. I have noted the increased in diagnosis of ADHD in people over 40. I have looked at the assessment tools used and know I could get a diagnosis. I don’t have ADHD.
I don't have ADHD, but three private clinics say I do - BBC News https://t.co/jXshdeCwxp
— Renée Hoenderkamp (@DrHoenderkamp) May 15, 2023
But, plenty of people also said that it just highlights how everyone deserves an in-depth assessment from the NHS – rather than just those making a TV documentary.
This is such an important point about the BBC panorama ADHD doc. The NHS knew he was a reporter and he was rushed through. He didn't have the true experience many have of an NHS diagnosis. There's a reason so many seek private diagnosis and its not confirmation bias https://t.co/KS38h7yTFy
— Rachel Charlton-Dailey (@RachelCDailey) May 15, 2023
I'm quite surprised by the criticism of the Panorama doc on private ADHD clinics (that we haven't yet seen). Patients deserve a thorough assessment with a clinical psychologist that rules out other neurological conditions and mental health problems as the cause of their symptoms
— Robyn Vinter (@RobynVinter) May 15, 2023
A BBC spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “Tonight’s Panorama makes clear that ADHD is a recognised condition affecting many adults and it highlights the long waits for assessment and treatment on the NHS in some areas.
“It is an investigation into the way some private clinics diagnose and prescribe ADHD medication following assessments conducted over online video calls.
“Panorama’s research has uncovered serious failings by some clinics and we think there is a clear public interest in broadcasting the findings.
“We will be reflecting serious concerns that have been raised by clinicians specialising in this field as well as individuals who have been diagnosed with ADHD.
“We recognise the profound impact the condition can have on people’s lives have taken great care to ensure the programme doesn’t stigmatise people who have ADHD. We encourage people to watch the documentary.”