NHS England creates new clinics to increase gambling harm support

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NHS England will be opening seven new gambling addiction clinics this summer to support those that are suffering from gambling harm.

The NHS has stated the number of people that have been referred to gambling harm clinics over the past year has increased by more than a third, rising to 1,389 patients (2021/22: 1,013 patients).

This latest figure is also up by almost four-fifths compared to what was reported two years ago (2020/21: 775 patients).

The NHS is “adapting to new healthcare needs” with the addition of seven new clinics in Milton Keynes, Thurrock, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Blackpool, and Sheffield, bringing the total number of gambling addiction clinics in England to 15.

The other eight are located in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford, as well as an additional national clinic, which treats both gambling and gaming addiction in children and young people, in London.

With the expansion to 15 clinics, the NHS plans to treat up to 3,000 patients a year, fulfilling the NHS’s long-term plan of improving services, enhancing accountability and minimising inequalities in healthcare provision.

As the NHS prepares to celebrate its 75th birthday, Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard noted that the clinic expansion shows the health service is “once again adapting to the new healthcare needs that have emerged”.

“Record numbers of people are coming to the NHS for help to treat their gambling addiction, a cruel disease which has the power to destroy people’s lives, with referrals up by more than a third compared to last year,” she stated.

“As it has done since 1948, the NHS is responding at speed and rolling out seven new gambling harms clinics across England, so that even more people can be supported by the NHS in their time of need.”

The Northern Gambling Service was launched by the NHS in 2019 with specialised treatment support clinics in Manchester and Sunderland. 

The service was renamed the National Gambling Support Network a year later to offer specialised gambling addiction treatments, including cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, lived-experience support groups, and aftercare rehabilitation.

The NHS highlighted the UK Gambling Commission’s figures that around 138,000 people could be suffering from gambling harm, with an additional 1.3 million engaged in moderate or low-risk gambling, but “other research estimates that this figure could be higher”.

NHS Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch stated: “Addiction is a cruel disease that can take over and ruin lives, whether it be destroying finances or ruining relationships, but the NHS is here to help, so if you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction please come forward.

“Although progress has been made on clamping down on this billion-pound industry with the Government’s White Paper, I hope further action can be taken to protect our young people and future generations from being bombarded by gambling advertisement while watching sport.”

Public Health Minister Neil O’Brien emphasised the importance of the new clinics, as well as the introduction of a UK gambling statutory levy by the UK government’s white paper, to contribute to the cost of treatment services.

“The stark rise in the number of people seeking NHS treatment for gambling-related harms shows the devastating impact it can have on people’s lives and health,” noted O’Brien.

“These new clinics will bring vital support to more parts of the country, so thousands more people can get the help they need. We have taken firm action to tackle gambling-related harms through our White Paper, which includes our commitment to introduce a statutory levy so gambling companies pay their fair share towards the costs of treatment services.”