Mental health misdiagnosis crisis

Concerns have been raised about the significant delays in certain mental health diagnoses and the impact this has on the individuals and their families.

With extended waiting times and many individuals unable to receive a formal diagnosis and treatment, it is likely that there may be significant scope for misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis claims.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request conducted by the BBC has shown that patients are waiting up to five years for a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at NHS Trusts around the country. South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust reported a waiting time for one individual of 1,842 days before assessment and two further individuals having to wait 1,788 days and 1,455 days. The Trust also reported an average waiting time of more than one year with no target currently in place.

Eleven out of the 33 mental health Trusts that responded to the BBC FOI request reported waiting times in excess of a year. In total there were more than 20,000 patients currently on the waiting lists across the 33 trusts. In addition, many of the Trusts did not have waiting time targets in place unlike those in place for other diagnoses and treatments thereby raising questions about the prominence that mental health diagnosis is given and the scope for potential mental health claims.

The responses have also highlighted the potential for misdiagnosis whereby patients have been incorrectly diagnosed with suffering from conditions such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders. This then increases their chances of being prescribed incorrect medication or treatment which can result in alarming consequences as well as potentially heightening the suffering of the individual. In these circumstances, it may be possible for those affected to pursue a misdiagnosis claim. Misdiagnosis compensation may occur when an individual has suffered the consequences and whereby the initial treatment has exasperated the patient’s ongoing condition. This can have a devastating impact on the patient’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

These figures were provided prior to the Coronavirus pandemic and it is unknown to the extent to which further delays have been incurred as a result. However, it is likely that assessments for ADHD and other mental health conditions have been delayed in order to enable the NHS to utilise its resources to fight the pandemic. This may however be of little comfort to those affected and face the organisation at a greater risk of a delayed diagnosis claim.