The impact of Covid-19 pandemic on services for children and adolescents with ADHD: results from a survey of paediatricians in the United Kingdom

AIMS Public Health. 2022 Jun 21;9(3):542-551. doi: 10.3934/publichealth.2022037. eCollection 2022.


Background: The Covid-19 pandemic has led to huge disruptions and multi-domain healthcare crisis, with additional impact on children and young people (CYP) affected by Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Methods: We conducted an online survey and obtained responses from 62 Paediatricians who provide ADHD services for CYP about their experience of Service disruption and adaptations during the first Covid-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom between March and June 2020. The responses were both quantitative and qualitative.

Results: The Paediatricians reported huge service disruptions such that almost half ceased the assessment of new patients with ADHD, and only 5% were able to offer physical monitoring for most patients. However, all respondents had adopted telemedicine, which allowed them to maintain high levels of non-physical service provision for existing patients. The Paediatricians used risk stratification strategies to determine which patients were more likely to benefit from the limited available face to face appointments for physical monitoring. The Paediatricians demonstrated clinical pragmatism to meet the needs of their patients such as starting medication without physical exam especially if the patient's behaviour was so challenging that it was presenting a crisis at home, and setting aside monthly limits for stimulant medications. Some respondents reported helpful cross-service collaborations to support CYP with ADHD and their families.

Conclusion: The Covid-19 pandemic has had adverse effect on many CYP with ADHD and caused huge disruption to the ADHD services that support them. As the pandemic continues to cause disruptions to ADHD services, the service adaptations emerging from the literature including some of those identified in this study could be useful to support more stable and sustainable ADHD services, both during and after the pandemic.

Keywords: ADHD; Covid-19; United Kingdom; child and adolescent mental health; disruption; paediatrics; service provision; telemedicine.