The NHS is set to open two new gambling clinics, it has announced, following ‘record demand’ for specialist support. The clinics, in Southampton and Stoke-On-Trent, will open in May and take the number of NHS specialist gambling services to seven. Almost 700 people with the ‘most severe gambling addiction issues’ were referred to NHS support between April and December last year, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.
The pandemic has seen a huge increase in the number of people gambling online, with the closure of betting shops during lockdowns and the widespread shift towards working from home. Almost 625,000 more over-65s are also now gambling online at least once a month than before the pandemic, according to analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/pandemic-responsible-for-huge-increase-in-over-65s-gambling-online/).
Research published by Public Health England (PHE) in 2021 estimated that almost 250,000 people were likely to have some form of gambling addiction, with around 2.2m classed as ‘at risk of addiction’. PHE’s evidence review into gambling harms estimated the annual cost to England alone at more than £1.2bn, almost £620m of which was ‘an estimate of the economic cost of gambling-related suicide’ (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/cost-of-gambling-harms-at-least-1-27bn-a-year/).
The announcement of the new clinics comes as the NHS has written to GambleAware stating that it will be ‘fully funding its own gambling services’ from April, following concerns about conflicts of interest around the industry’s funding of treatment.
‘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,’ said NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch. ‘The opening of two new gambling clinics in May, as a part of our £2.3bn investment into mental health services, will mean we can help even more people with the most serious gambling problems. Later this year the NHS will launch a new Gambling Harm Network and Clinical Reference Group, which will bring expertise together and enable clinical teams to share best practices for helping to treat gambling addiction.’