Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness and affects around 5% of school-aged children worldwide. In the UK children can wait on average 18 months from their first appointment to receiving a formal ADHD diagnosis. The annual cost of ADHD assessments to the NHS is estimated at around £23m.
The Academic Health Science Network’s Focus ADHD intervention uses technology created by international health technology company Qbtech Ltd. The technology, QbTest, measures a patient’s attention, impulsivity and motor activity all at the same time. These indicators are core symptoms of ADHD and accurate measurement adds objectivity to support timely diagnosis.
The intervention has been selected following a demonstrator project across seven NHS sites in the East Midlands which showed a reduction in time to diagnosis by an average of 153 days. Using this intervention was also shown to increase staff capacity by reducing the number of appointments needed for diagnosis and by ruling out ADHD sooner for ambiguous cases. Releasing capacity of clinicians can help reduce waiting lists, improve treatment and allow more time to concentrate on complex cases.
With the support of the AHSNs, QbTest has already spread to 41 NHS trusts and 73 sites in England (June 20), but following a selection process which required robust evaluation and results, the intervention will be given further resources and support to spread across a much wider area – with the potential to reach a much larger amount of children and families.
The AHSNs are tasked with evaluating and spreading proven innovations that answer some of the country’s most pressing health and care challenges – the Focus ADHD initiative is an example of this. As outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, there is a commitment by the NHS to improve children and young people’s mental health services which includes reducing waiting times for specialist services and supporting children, young people and their families through the diagnostic process.