NHS cites industry concerns in severing GambleAware links

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The NHS has cut ties with GambleAware due to “concern about using services paid for directly by industry,” confirming a decision that had been previously anticipated by stakeholders.

In an open letter, penned by Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s National Mental Health Director, it was confirmed that the service will no longer accept grants from the gambling sector to help co-fund its UK-wide problem gambling clinics and research, education and treatment programmes.

“We are very grateful to GambleAware for the funding that you have provided over the last three years, which has allowed us to roll out treatment services faster than would have otherwise been possible,” Murdoch explained. 

“However, as these become part of normal recurrent spending commitment and the number of clinics is expanded, we want to move the funding into general NHS funding, as is standard for other similar services. 

“Our decision has been heavily influenced by patients who have previously expressed concern about using services paid for directly by industry. Additionally, our clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry.”

However, it is further noted that “the NHS cannot address the harms caused by gambling alone, nor is it the NHS’s job to tackle this on its own,” with it confirmed that a “constructive operational relationship” with the charity will be maintained.

“Gambling treatment services do not prevent people being harmed in the first place and we would like to see the industry take firm action so that people do not need to seek help from the NHS,” the open letter ends. 

“We hope that you will continue to join us in calling for the gambling industry to be more heavily regulated and taxed to generate public funding to address gambling harms.”

Prior to the decision, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond had declared that all concerns on the independence RET funding would be immediately resolved by a fixed safer gambling levy being imposed on licensed operators.

Osmond and GambleAware trustees have recommended the mandatory levy as the charity’s headline reform to the DCMS amid the ongoing review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

“GambleAware has long called for the creation of a mandatory funding model to address gambling harms to ensure all operators are held accountable,” Osmond previously stated to SBC.

“GambleAware is an independent charity, working to deliver the national strategy to reduce gambling harms. We recognise that a whole system approach is needed which involves a coordinated and coherent approach, in partnership with others including the NHS.

“We support a mandatory levy of one per cent GGY across all operators to ensure consistency and transparency across the industry.”