Northern Ireland adult ADHD petition submitted to Health Minister marks 'important first step'

Peter McReynolds MLA submitted the ADHD petition to the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday morning
Peter McReynolds MLA submitted the ADHD petition to the Stormont Assembly on Tuesday morning -Credit:ADD-NI/Twitter

The petition calling for adult ADHD services to be commissioned in Northern Ireland has been presented and submitted at Stormont.

Alliance MLA Peter McReynolds was inspired to begin the petition three weeks ago after learning, through a written question to the Health Minister, that there are no regionally commissioned adult ADHD services in Northern Ireland.

In the short space of time since launching the petition, over 3,500 signatures were gathered, along with testimony from those dealing with the issue of attempting to get a diagnosis and support for ADHD.

Read more: NI man unable to get adult ADHD diagnosis - even privately

Read more: MLA says NI being failed by lack of adult ADHD services

The petition was submitted to Health Minister Robin Swann on Tuesday morning, April 23. It's expected it will be provided to the minister and the Health Committee, and has been described as an "important first step" on the road to securing regionally commissioned ADHD services.

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a developmental disorder associated with an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. The symptoms can interfere significantly with an individual's daily activities and relationships.

ADD-NI is the leading support centre and organisation for ADHD in Northern Ireland, operating since 1997. They said there are currently 40,000 children across Northern Ireland - or 10% of the school age population - who have ADHD, while around 70,000 adults here have the condition.

Speaking to Belfast Live, director of ADD-NI, Sarah Salters said "people are being failed" by the current lack of support in Northern Ireland.

She said: "It's been a very difficult time for people with ADHD in Northern Ireland and I think our adults have struggled immensely.

"It's been one of those very difficult situations where they haven't been able to access NHS services, they have been able to access private services, but they've now almost closed their doors to private patients because they're absolutely inundated with referrals. Then there's the issue that if you get a diagnosis, you may not be able to access medication.

"There's a large population of people with the condition here and there's no priority being given to it, yet this is the most manageable condition if you've got the tools to manage it. People are being failed."

ADD-NI provide therapeutic programs for families, adults and young people to help support them to help achieve their full potential. Sarah said their concern is that the issue may be shelved amid budgetary constraints.

She said: "The Department of Health said adult services will be based on assessment of the level of demand for the service. The petition has had over 3,500 signatures in three weeks, if that petition is left, it will grow considerably.

"The other thing the Department punctuates it with is the context of future budget availability. We know there is no budget at the moment and there's no availability of money, and I wouldn't like to think this will be put on a shelf somewhere and nobody will do anything with it. That would be my fear.

"We're here to help and support people with ADHD, we're heavily oversubscribed but we want to be able to help people coming through looking for help."

Peter McReynolds MLA said he'll continue to raise the need for commissioning ADHD services here to ensure the Health Minister takes all steps necessary now the petition has been submitted.

He said: "We've had a positive response to the petition from people and obviously you're hearing difficult testimonies and people have really been left in limbo for a number of years.

"We've probably missed two generations of children who have had to grow up adapting to the various symptoms of ADHD they may have and masking the realities they're experiencing. So we're playing catch up trying to deal with those people."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Provision of service for ADHD assessment and diagnosis has grown across Trusts in recent years in response to population demand and available expertise within Health & Social Care teams. While a level of provision is available for ADHD referrals, there are currently no specifically commissioned services.

"The Health and Social Care Trusts are committed to working closely and collaboratively with the Department to develop innovative, cost effective, co-produced, quality, and evidenced-based services that can meet the needs of patients with ADHD. This work would include the development of clinical pathways.

"Any decision to commission Adult ADHD services in the future will be based on an assessment of the level of demand for services, and in the context of future budget availability."Officials from the Department are considering the future direction of travel for the commissioning of Adult ADHD services and how best to progress the issue, in discussion with relevant stakeholders. Subject to future budget availability, potential next steps include the commissioning of research/analysis of adult ADHD demand to inform options for future commissioning strategies, as well as a regional workshop to explore potential ways forward."

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