A number of academics have called for the establishment of NHS gambling harms services in Wales, a move which is labelled as “long overdue”.
Addressing a lack of such services in the country, as well as Scotland, this absence is criticised as “unacceptable”, as well as one that must be “urgently addressed” by the devolved government as part of its health and social care portfolio.
In an article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, a total of six contributors have called for “equal and assured access” to address a “current glaring gap in provision”.
“The need is acute, and we call on the Welsh government and key stakeholders to put words into action and give the Welsh people a specialised gambling harms treatment service that meets their needs,” it is written.
A team from Swansea University’s School of Psychology led the call, alongside members of the Gambling Research, Education and Treatment Network Wales, University of Cambridge, University of South Wales and the National Problem Gambling Clinic and National Centre for Gaming Disorders.
The article suggests that research highlights that “people in Wales are as much at risk of experiencing harms from gambling as anywhere else in the UK”.
However, despite referrals to the NHS Gambling Harms Services increasing to 1,400 in 2022, a further seven clinics have taken the total available across England to 15, with this figure standing at zero across Wales and Scotland.
The seven new clinics are in Milton Keynes, Thurrock, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Blackpool, and Sheffield, which join those available in London, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford.
Professor Simon Dymond of Swansea University and Director of GREAT Network Wales commented: “In 2020, we showed that the need for NHS-commissioned gambling harms services in Wales was stark.
“Here, we repeat our call for the Welsh government and key stakeholders to put words into action and give the Welsh people a specialised gambling harms treatment service that meets their needs.
“The time is long overdue for Wales to be on a par with the support and treatment services available for those experiencing gambling harms in England.
“Indeed, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that people with high gambling severity should seek treatment and support from NHS-commissioned specialist gambling treatment services. Such an option is not currently available for the people of Wales.”
Adding: “We hope that the proposed introduction of a statutory levy will provide a potential means of funding this essential service, but we shouldn’t wait for that to happen. We need NHS investment in gambling harms services for Wales, now.”