A letter to me, ADHD

by Rick Johansen

A letter arrives from the local ‘Integrated Care Board’ which offers a specialised adult ADHD service, at least in theory. I have lost track of how long I have been on the waiting list for an ADHD assessment – it must be at least three years, on top of the two years it took to get on the waiting list – but for reasons I will explain in a moment, I have not removed my name despite having had an assessment with the vultures and parasites of the run for profit private ADHD gravy train – and now they have written to me.

I wondered if, at last, they were going to offer me a date for an assessment but all the letter says is that “The Adult ADHD service is currently conducting a project to better understand the circumstances of people on our waiting list”, or to put it another way, to see if we can get them off our waiting list (just me being cynical). My intention is to stay on their waiting list. Here’s why.

Not long before my assessment, I read the sneeriest of sneering Guardian articles, casting not so much as doubt on the condition but to rip the piss out of it and so all of those who believed we had it. I found it oddly upsetting because here I was, knocking on a door on the other side of which could lie an explanation to why my life has been as fucked up as it has been, and here the condition was subject to outright ridicule. Nonetheless, I had my assessment, the diagnosis was that I had medium to strong levels of ADHD and, despite lingering doubts following the article, I was happy. Then came Panorama.

The BBC reporter Rory Carson went undercover and obtained positive ADHD assessments from three different private providers, one of which was the company I used. Carson was then assessed by Dr Mike Smith, a consultant psychiatrist and the clinical lead of the Leeds NHS Adult ADHD service and fell far short of the criteria to make an assessment. A significant difference between Carson and myself was that he lied to get his assessment and I told the truth, but the doubts had set in. I remain convinced I have ADHD because all the pieces fit in the jigsaw, but I vowed then to stay on the NHS waiting list in order to be assessed by a professional whose raison d’etre was treating people and not making money from them.

Okay – not every member of the private health business may not be an unprincipled, money-grabbing son or daughter of Satan – I am sure I will eventually meet someone in the make-money-from-sick-people brigade who isn’t –  but it sowed seeds of doubt in my mind. What if Carson uncovered a scandal whereby so called professionals were handing out diagnoses without the slightest concern it might be a nonsense?

If a private cancer ward behaved like this, there would be hell to pay and the country would be up in arms, but as it’s merely mental folk maybe it doesn’t really matter. And anyway, ADHD is merely the latest fad. It’s not real, just like depression and anxiety isn’t real, right?

Maybe the local NHS Integrated Care Board is genuinely concerned about wanting to find out about my current circumstances and that my cynicism is misplaced? I just don’t know for sure but having been kept waiting this long, I’m still thinking I could be long dead by the time they get round to seeing me.

I paid a shed load of cash for my private assessment and I’m losing faith in it. And now I am having to wait – again – under Rishi Sunak’s collapsing NHS in a country where nothing works and everything is broken, especially in my head.

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