The National Health Service (NHS) in England has announced plans to open seven new gambling addiction clinics this summer in response to a significant increase in addiction referrals. According to a spokeswoman for the health service, there has been a steep rise in demand for support related to “gambling-related harms.” Last year, approximately 1,400 patients were referred for help, marking a more than a third increase compared to the previous year and an almost four-fifths increase compared to two years ago. The Gambling Commission estimates that around 138,000 people may be struggling with problem gambling.
As a result of this growing issue, the NHS is expanding its support services with the opening of specialist gambling clinics in seven additional locations: Milton Keynes, Thurrock, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Blackpool, and Sheffield. These new clinics will supplement the existing eight gambling harm clinics in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford. There is also a national clinic in London that focuses on treating both gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people. The NHS aims to treat up to 3,000 patients per year across these 15 clinics.
Treatment for serious gambling addiction cases will involve various therapies, including cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, support groups, and aftercare. The clinics will be staffed by psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, and peer support workers, who will provide support not only to patients but also to their family members, partners, and carers.
The announcement of these new clinics comes shortly after a coroner ruled that gambling addiction played a role in a man’s suicide. Luke Ashton, a father-of-two, had lost thousands of pounds gambling on Betfair’s exchange before taking his own life at the age of 40. In the conclusion of the inquest into his death, the coroner stated that the betting company could have done more to help him before he reached such a tragic end.
Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien commented on the new clinics, acknowledging the devastating impact of gambling-related harms and emphasizing the importance of providing support to those in need. He also highlighted the government’s commitment to addressing this issue through their White Paper, which includes plans to introduce a statutory levy for gambling companies to contribute towards the costs of treatment services.
Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, expressed concerns about the ease of access to gambling through mobile phones and the saturation of advertisements promoting gambling. She noted that people can now place bets at the touch of a button, and everyone, regardless of age, is constantly bombarded with advertisements encouraging gambling participation. Pritchard urged football clubs to consider their responsibilities to fans, particularly in light of sponsorship deals with gambling companies that expose young people to messages that normalize gambling.
The NHS’s expansion of gambling addiction clinics reflects the urgent need for support services as the number of individuals seeking help continues to rise. By increasing the availability of specialized clinics and offering a range of therapies, the NHS aims to address the devastating impact of gambling addiction on individuals and their families. This initiative also highlights the government’s commitment to tackling gambling-related harms and ensuring that gambling companies contribute their fair share to support treatment services.