Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 12:33 UK

Merthyr Tydfil doctor warns of ADHD 'timebomb'

ADHD sufferer Alex James-Maloney, 7, of Merthyr Tydfil
Alex James-Maloney was diagnosed with ADHD 18 months ago

A doctor has warned that a lack of NHS provision for children with behavioural problems may lead to a "catastrophe" in his community.

Merthyr Tydfil GP Prof Jonathan Richards raised serious concerns over funding for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

"We're hanging on by the skin of our teeth," Prof Richards told the BBC Wales documentary, Living with Alex.

The Children's Commissioner for Wales is to look into the situation.

Research by the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, suggests that children with ADHD experience problems in later life, the programme found.

Prof Anita Thapar, who headed the research team, explained: "They're at increased risk of having problems like using, misusing, alcohol and drugs.

Prof Jonathan Richards, Merthyr Tydfil GP
It wouldn't surprise me if we have some kind of catastrophe or disaster in our community in the years to come
Prof Jonathan Richards, Merthyr Tydfil GP

"And also they are at greater risk than typically developing adolescents of getting into trouble with the law and in getting involved in criminal behaviour."

The documentary focuses on seven-year-old Alex James-Maloney, from the Gurnos estate, who was diagnosed with ADHD 18 months ago.

His mother, 24-year-old Leanne Maloney, said living with the condition is difficult: "He can be violent," she said. "He's broken my nose, he's broken his father's nose and I am afraid of my own child.

"He should be out playing with his friends and living a life that a child should be living.

"But he's got no friends and the parents of the people that he does try to be friends with tell them 'Don't bother with Alex, he's a naughty child'."

Ms Maloney also said there is a lack of understanding surrounding the condition.

"I'll get upset when people call him Damien or devil child," she said.

"And I think he's not a devil child, he's a child with disabilities - he didn't ask to be born with ADHD, no child asks to be born with disabilities."


The programme learned that since the age of five Alex has been on medication to counteract the symptoms of ADHD and also takes sleeping tablets at night.

His mother said she sees the medication as a short term solution and has concerns over his future.

She said: "I just wish there was something out there or somebody who could say right, come to this meeting with us and we'll help you how to handle your child's behaviour and to try and get him off the medication.

"All I can see is Alex in 10 years time still on these tablets and out pinching cars and being a thief. That's not what I want for him."

The National Institute of Clinical Evidence (NICE), the body that advises on treatments for the NHS, recommends offering support groups and therapies as well as medication for the condition.

Leanne Maloney, mother of ADHD sufferer Alex
He's not a devil child, he's a child with disabilities - he didn't ask to be born with ADHD
Leanne Maloney, mother of ADHD sufferer Alex

But Leanne Maloney said she was unaware of any local support services for ADHD sufferers and their families.

And Prof Richards spoke of his concern that such support services are not always provided in the Merthyr area.

"At the moment, sadly, the health service doesn't have the resources to fund the people to provide the counselling services and the behaviour modification services as well as the psychiatric services and the medication," he said.

"My own experience at the moment would be that if I referred a child today and a diagnosis of ADHD was made then that child would be started on medication and that would be it," he adds.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we have some kind of catastrophe or disaster in our community in the years to come because there are so many families who are struggling with deprivation; struggling with children with behaviour problems.

"Whenever I see a catastrophe happening in another community I wonder 'is Merthyr going to be next?'"

Jonathan Richards raises serious concerns over a lack of provision for children with ADHD in Merthyr

His concerns were echoed by Keith Towler, the Children's Commissioner for Wales, who has vowed to look into the situation.

"The fact that you might live in one post code or another really should not determine the quality of the provision and services that you get as a child," said Mr Towler.

"It's important I do what I can to raise the profile of these issues and to say that at the heart of this are children that have rights. And Alex is a child with rights."

Cwm Taf NHS Trust said as a principle they follow NICE guidelines but have difficulties prioritising resources in meeting demands.

Living With Alex, Monday, 19 April, BBC One Wales, 2130 BST

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