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Keywords:

  • ADHD;
  • drug treatment;
  • service delivery;
  • audit

The National Health Service in England has deployed guidance from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to assist practitioners in the diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but, though the number of prescriptions has risen since its introduction, the impact of the guidance on prescribing practice has not been studied. Clinic records of all open ADHD cases (296) in three English Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services were examined. The time from referral to either prescription or data collection was extracted for a survival analysis. It was hypothesised that NICE guidance, clinic, patient and referral characteristics would all influence the speed and likelihood of prescription. Following the introduction of NICE guidance, the median time to start prescribing medication fell from 1262 to 526 days: the minimum realistic time to complete a routine assessment was approximately 70 days. Overall, 70% were prescribed medication. Most of the wait was after face-to-face appointments at the clinic had been initiated. Waiting times differed between clinics and shorter waits were likely for older children and those referred from an educational source. While the introduction of NICE guidance has increased the rate of prescription, the time taken before prescription suggests that the tendency in England is still to postpone treatment by medication. The reasons for this require further research.