My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure that just about every Member present has received in their postbag requests for help from people who face delays in accessing EHCPs. That demonstrates the failure in the system, because when parents go through the complaints process, go to the ombudsman or go to a tribunal, the data is clear: between 90% and 100% of cases are found in the parents’ favour. It is clearly a systematic failure.
Some 34% of respondents to the Petitions Committee survey agreed with the data I have just read out, stating that they had waited between one and three years for an assessment. The average child waiting times are believed to be approximately seven months in England and Scotland and 1.6 years in Wales, while there is absolutely no data for Northern Ireland.
I want to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns), who could not be present as she is chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee at the moment. She informed me that the waiting time for a referral to a community paediatrician in her constituency is approximately two years. I am sure many other hon. and right hon. Members will have similar experiences. This echoes responses to the Petitions Committee survey from the parents and guardians of children with an ADHD diagnosis. Some 17% said that their child had to wait between six months and a year for an assessment, 28% had to wait between one and two years, 21% had waited between two and three years, while 7% said that their child had waited for more than five years.
Those examples involve people with suspected ADHD who are referred, but many more slip through and are completely missed by GPs and teachers or are rejected from being referred prior to assessment—I believe that applies to in the region of 46% of all cases. As the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), quite rightly says, young women and girls in particular are likely to be underdiagnosed, with a male-to-female ratio of 3:1. Again, that highlights the need for better training and understanding of neurodiverse conditions. The misconception that ADHD is exclusive to hyperactive young boys is rife, and is another contributing factor to the failure to assess ADHD properly and in time.
The statistics regarding diagnosis are concerning, but the real-life implications of inadequate and late ADHD diagnoses are really quite harrowing. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa, one of the creators of the petition calling on the Government to tackle ADHD waiting lists. Lisa’s son was one of the many people to visit their GP in the hopes of receiving a swift diagnosis and support. Instead, however, the GP’s referral was delayed, because the documentation was not submitted by the surgery following a consultation. The family were then informed that getting an assessment could take up to three years. Sadly, last year Lisa’s son took his own life. I thank Lisa for the courage she has shown in sharing her story with me and allowing it to be told in the Chamber today. I am sure we all agree that it is a story she should not have had to tell.
Although ADHD is not a mental health condition, it does have close links to mental health conditions. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) pointed out earlier, those who do not receive support are more vulnerable to trauma, which can trigger depression. In fact, adults with ADHD are five times more likely to take their own lives than those without it.
The repercussions of inadequate and delayed support for those with ADHD are deadly. When we consider the lack of available data on ADHD diagnosis and waiting times, we can only guess at the true extent of the effect on society. For those who do receive a diagnosis, support is often inadequate because of the lack of training and understanding of ADHD in hospitals, schools and wider society. I hope that the Minister can update us on what plans the Government have to improve waiting times for ADHD assessments and support for those living with it.
Although the state of play for autism diagnosis is a lot clearer, the outlook is no less bleak. Thankfully, data for autism exists on a national level. There are over 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK, and the latest NHS data suggests that over 120,000 people are waiting for an autism assessment in England alone. Despite guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence stating that no one should have to wait longer than three months between referral and first being seen, more than 100,000 people have waited longer than that. The Petitions Committee survey echoed that, finding that 43% of adults and 47% of children have been waiting for between one and three years for an NHS autism assessment. As with ADHD, long delays risk people’s needs escalating and autistic people falling into crisis unnecessarily. That ultimately ends up putting more pressure and costs on other services, including mental health services.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jess, the co-creator of the petition calling for action to reduce ADHD and autism assessment waiting times. She shared her family’s experience of trying to get diagnoses for her children and her partner for ADHD and autism. Her frustrating story demonstrated an all-too-familiar experience of someone waiting multiple years for an assessment, waiting multiple years for an EHCP and waiting multiple years to receive support for her child’s deteriorating mental health.