After identifying an increased demand for gambling addiction treatment, the NHS has announced the opening of two new clinics specialising in the area.
Located in Southampton and Stoke-on-Trent, the two centres will open in May, complementing the NHS’ five existing clinics in London, Leeds, Manchester and Sunderland along with the pilot children’s and young person’s clinic.
Additionally, the service also plans to initiate a Gambling Harm Network and Clinical Reference Group later this year, with the goal of consolidating ‘expertise together’ and enabling clinical teams to share best practices on the treatment of problem gambling.
NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch said: “Gambling addiction is a cruel mental health condition that can devastate people’s lives – our pilot clinics are already having a lasting impact in helping people to take back vital control of their lives.
“The opening of two new gambling clinics in May, as a part of our £2.3 billion investment into mental health services, will mean we can help even more people with the most serious gambling problems.”
The NHS cited statistics demonstrating that 668 people were referred to its gambling clinics between April and December 2021, a 16.2% increase on the 575 individuals referred during the corresponding time period one year previously.
In particular, the North of England had the highest prevalence of at-risk gamblers, with 4.4% of adults in the North West and 4.9% in the North East at risk of addiction. However, it is worth noting that the aforementioned 16.2% increase only amounts to 90 people.
Meanwhile, UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) data suggests that British problem gambling rates declined from 0.6% to 0.3% – a figure which the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has compared with that of other European nations, many of which experience much higher levels of problem gambling.
The NHS recently made the decision to cut its financial ties with the gambling industry, no longer accepting contributions from operators and fully funding its treatment services – including the newly planned clinics – via its own resources.
Patients and clinicians asserted through feedback that they had reservations about the potential for conflict of interest from the gambling industry, due to the sector generating £14 billion annually whilst funding treatment for addiction.
In an open letter to GambleAware’s CEO, Zoe Osmund, Murdoch revealed that the NHS will cease accepting RET contributions from the betting sector, a development that had been anticipated by industry stakeholders.
Murdoch concluded: “It is also absolutely right that the NHS now funds these clinics independently, recognising the harmful effects this addiction can have on the nation’s mental health, and that predatory tactics from gambling companies are part of the problem, not the solution.”