The UK government has detailed its plans to open new treatment facilities for the 500,000 adults and young people suffering from gambling-related harm as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
In addition to the proposed clinics, the government announced it is committed to providing the NHS with an additional £20.5bn in funding by 2023.
Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, welcomed the proposal: “For the past 10 years, GambleAware has funded the National Problem Gambling Clinic at Central North West of London NHS Foundation Trust and, as a charity, we are immensely proud of how the clinic has demonstrated the contribution the NHS can make to the treatment of gambling addiction.
“Too often, those with gambling addiction suffer in silence, which is why we will continue to work closely with the NHS to help make sure there are good links between the services we commission and those commissioned by the NHS.”
There is currently only one specialised clinic based in Fulham, London, but plans are underway to open further treatment centres in both Leeds and Lancashire that will reach a greater number of people.
The decision is being received as overwhelmingly positive for the gambling industry as a whole. The responsibility of tackling problem gambling is no longer solely with the gambling industry, and demonstrates the government’s willingness to address the issue.
Responsible gambling advocates have long petitioned for funding towards problem gambling treatment within the NHS, especially given the vast amounts of tax revenues the industry contributes each year.
It is perhaps reflective of the fact that the current Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, arrived at the Department of Health directly from the DCMS, where he was involved in key gambling issues such as the horseracing levy and FOBT stakes in his short time as Culture Secretary.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, founder of Central North West of London’s NHS National Problem Gambling Clinic, was recently awarded an OBE in recognition of her services to addiction treatment and research. She announced that she would be dedicating her award to the children of addicts.
”I would like to express my gratitude to this government for taking seriously the issue of gambling disorder and the harm it causes not just to problem gamblers but to their spouses and children.”
She added: “I am truly delighted to have received this honour for my work in addiction treatment and research having dedicated my entire professional life to this disease.”