King's College London

Research portal

Evaluation of a diagnostic ADHD pathway in a community child mental health service in South London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Georgina L. Barnes, Alexandra Eleanor Wretham, Rosemary Sedgwick, Georgina Boon, Katie Cheesman, Omer Moghraby

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalMental Health Review Journal
Issue number1
E-pub ahead of print14 Mar 2020

King's Authors


Purpose: Clinicians working in UK child mental health services are faced with several challenges in providing accurate assessment and diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Within the South London & Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Trust, community Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are developing structured pathways for assessing and diagnosing ADHD in young people. To date, these pathways have not been formally evaluated. The main aims of this evaluation are to evaluate all ADHD referrals made to the service in an 18-month period, including the number of completed assessments and proportion of children diagnosed with ADHD; and investigate adherence to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guideline for diagnosing ADHD in children and young people. Design/methodology/approach: Retrospective data analysis was performed using service databases and electronic patient records. Adherence to the clinical guideline was measured using the NICE data collection tool for diagnosing ADHD in children and young people. All completed ADHD assessments were compared to four key recommendation points in the guideline. Findings: Within the time frame, 146 children aged 4-17 years were referred and accepted for an ADHD assessment. Of these, 92 families opted in and were seen for an initial appointment. In total, 36 ADHD assessments were completed, of which 19 children received a diagnosis of ADHD and 17 did not. Aside from structured recording of ADHD symptoms based on ICD-10 criteria (69%) and reporting of functional impairment (75%), adherence to all guidance points was above 90%. The study also found that although a greater proportion of children referred to the service were male and identified as White, these differences narrowed upon receipt of ADHD diagnosis. Research limitations/implications: Relationship to the existing literature is discussed in relation to the assessment process, demographic characteristics and rates of co-occurrence. Practical implications: The findings demonstrate that in child mental health services, gold standard practice for diagnosing ADHD should be the adoption of clear, protocol-driven pathways to support appropriate access and treatment for young people and their families. Originality/value: This article is unique in that it is, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, the first to describe and report clinician-adherence to a structured pathway for diagnosing ADHD in young people within a community CAMHS service in South London.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454