Jo Platt: The failure to understand and support people with ADHD is costing our country dearly

Posted On: 
19th February 2018

Improving our understanding of ADHD could save millions of pounds for the public purse - and help boost the life chances for millions of people across the UK, writes Jo Platt

Jo Platt, with ADHD Action founder Michelle Beckett and comedian Rory Bremner at the launch of the APPG for ADHD

At the Labour Party Conference last year, I was captivated and inspired by the speech that Michelle Beckett, the Founder and Chief Executive of the new charity ADHD Action, gave on the impact ADHD has had on her life and the urgent need to better understand the condition.

ADHD is often widely misunderstood and carries with it enormous stigma that can prove unbearable to those affected, including Michelle who nearly took her own life because of the condition. Fortunately, her life has been transformed from the treatment she has received and has now established the charity ADHD Action to support others.

Michelle’s incredible speech proved not only the importance of understanding the condition and its impact, but also how important it is for people like Michelle to have a voice and be able to tell MPs her story in the hope of influencing public policy. That is, I believe, one of the most important roles of APPGs – interacting with interest groups, specialists and individuals on a specific policy area to help make a difference.

That is why, along with Conservative MP Helen Whatley, we established a new APPG on ADHD. The group has members from across the four main parties and is the first ever group of elected representatives in the world to cover the issue of ADHD in both adults and children.

And our purpose is simple: we need an open forum for health professionals and those with ADHD to raise awareness and feed into our debates, influencing the treatment options offered to those with the condition. If we are successful in our endeavour we could save millions of pounds for the public purse and help to improve the health and potential life chances for millions of people across the UK.

There is, for example, a popular misconception that ADHD is being over-diagnosed. However, the irony is that most children and adults are vastly under-diagnosed in the UK. The consequence of this is many areas across the country have no ADHD provisions, or, if they do have services, the waiting lists for assessment are often more than three years long.

This failure to adequately recognise, diagnose, treat and support people with the condition is costing our country dearly in terms of impaired life outcomes for individuals. 79% of adults with the condition present with treatment resistant anxiety and depression, and around 90% of adults are undiagnosed and unaware they are living with it. 25% of the UK adult prison population have ADHD, and up to 45% of young offenders (studies have even shown that treatment with inexpensive medication can reduce re-offending by up to 41%) and so this particular topic will form the first of the APPGs studies.

But of most annoyance is that ADHD is a common, chronic, and highly treatable condition. When supported, people with ADHD can be highly creative, driven and entrepreneurial. UK celebrities with the condition include singer Robbie Williams, Olympic boxer Nicola Adams, entrepreneur Richard Branson, and comedian Rory Bremner who attended our inaugural AGM last month. The group has the potential to make a real difference and I hope the first step for real progress in this area.

The next step for the APPG will therefore be to begin these important dialogues, which span the policy areas of health, justice, education, work and pensions, as well as many other departments to give a voice to those with ADHD and establish how public policy can best work for them.

Jo Platt is Labour MP for Leigh and chair of the APPG for ADHD