NHS to launch cross-sector ADHD taskforce to boost care for patients in England

NHS England will launch a new attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) taskforce alongside government to improve care for people living with the condition. 

The new taskforce will bring together expertise from across a broad range of sectors, including the NHS, education and justice, to better understand the challenges affecting those with ADHD and help provide a joined up approach in response to concerns around rising demand.

ADHD was the second most viewed health condition on the NHS website in 2023, after Covid-19, according to new figures compiled by NHS England, with 4.3 million page views over the course of the year. 

Announcing the taskforce at the NHS England board meeting today, health leaders outlined the work they have already carried out assessing ADHD service provision and identifying the causes of reported increases in demand.

An initial assessment of NHS care for those with ADHD found many of the challenges span wider society, and include capacity, medication supply issues, variation in services and a lack of reliable data, which the new expert group will explore in more detail. 

The taskforce will also engage with patients, service providers, Integrated Care Boards, primary care services, local authorities, schools, educational providers, and clinical teams – with findings published later this year. 

Taskforce members and terms of reference will be published in the coming weeks. 

The World Health Organisation defines ADHD as being a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that has a direct negative impact on academic, occupational, or social functioning. Around one in 20 children are estimated to be impacted by ADHD globally.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “NHS staff across the country are working hard to ensure all patients requiring assessments and further support from ADHD services are seen as promptly as possible.

“We have recognised that that more needs to be done to ensure people can get a timely diagnosis and importantly, that all of their needs are addressed.

“This is a hugely complex piece of work and this taskforce will need to consult a wide range of partner and experts, to understand more about the issues impacting those with ADHD and how service provision can be better joined up to meet people’s needs today and in the future. This is a vital first step in helping us achieve real improvements in the ADHD services that the NHS and the independent sector provides.” 

Steve Russell, chief delivery officer said:“NHS England has begun important work into investigating challenges in ADHD service provision. 

“Using the findings from the initial review, we will improve data collection to help us understand the scale of the challenge and work closely with the new cross-sector taskforce to improve pathways for patients with ADHD. 

Alongside the work of the taskforce, NHS England will continue to work with stakeholders to:

  • develop a national ADHD data improvement plan;
  • carry out more detailed work to understand the provider and commissioning landscape;
  • capture examples from local health systems who are trialling innovative ways of delivering ADHD services and to ensure best practice is captured and shared across the system. 

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins said: “It is vital that people with ADHD not only receive a timely assessment and diagnosis, but also the support they need to live fulfilled lives.

“We’re already exploring options to improve data collection and reporting on assessment waiting times, and this new taskforce is crucial to support this work to ensure they get faster, simpler and fairer care.

“A better understanding of the issues facing people with ADHD will help us across Government and the NHS to address them, creating solutions over the long term.”

The NHS Long Term Plan set out an ambitious programme to transform mental health services, autism and learning disability; with a particular focus on boosting community services and reducing the over reliance on inpatient care, with these more intensive services significantly improved and more effectively joined up with schools and councils.