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© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ. Early recognition, identification and treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can reduce detrimental outcomes and redirect their developmental trajectory. We aimed to describe variations in age of ADHD diagnosis and stimulant prescribing among general practitioner practices in a nationwide network and identify child, parental, household and general practice factors that might account for these variations. Cross-sectional study of children aged under 19 years registered within a general practice in the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Research and Surveillance Centre (RSC) network in 2016, RCGP RSC has a household key allowing parent and child details to be linked. Data from 158 general practices and 353 774 children under 19 were included. The mean age of first ADHD diagnosis was 10.5 years (95% CI 10.1 to 10.9, median 10, IQR 9.0-11.9) and the mean percentage of children with ADHD prescribed stimulant medications among RCGP RSC practices was 41.2% (95% CI 38.7 to 43.6). There was wide inter-practice variation in the prevalence of diagnosis of ADHD, the age of diagnosis and stimulant prescribing. ADHD diagnosis is more likely to be made later in households with a greater number of children and with a larger age difference between adults and children. Stimulant prescribing for children with ADHD was higher in less deprived practices. Older parents and families with more children fail to recognise ADHD and may need more support. Practices in areas of higher socio-economic status are associated with greater prescribing of stimulants for children with ADHD.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine

Publication Date





155 - 161