In the UK, a psychiatrist will have had at least 12 to 13 years training and work experience in order to be fully qualified. They begin by training to become a medical doctor, then they go on to work as practising doctor/surgeon, then they go on to specialist training in psychiatry.

This is relevant to us because only a qualified psychiatrist can diagnose and prescribe medication for ADHD. They can also diagnose autism and provide ongoing support for any co-occurring mental health conditions.

To be referred to a psychiatrist under the NHS you should approach your GP and they will make a referral. The waiting lists are currently very long for both autism and ADHD assessments – from months to several years, depending on where you live. For those who are able and who wish to, an assessment by a private psychiatrist is equally valid.

If you live in England you have the Right to Choose pathway at your disposal, and this is really valuable as it means you can choose a psychiatrist anywhere in England, if you’re prepared to travel in order to make the most of shorter waiting lists. Here is a link to Psychiatry UK’s Right to Choose page for ADHD this right applies to autism diagnoses too) or you can just Google Right to Choose to find out more.

It’s worth noting that autism and ADHD assessments can also be carried out by Clinical Psychologists, though they are not qualified to prescribe ADHD medication. If medication is not your goal, you may find this route more straightforward and cost effective, the choice, as always, is yours.

You might also want to read the glossary entries → Diagnosis – do we need a formal one? and Clinical Psychologist.