Young people’s gambling addiction service launched

As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, NHS England has announced that the first NHS gambling clinic for children will open this year as part of a new network of services for addicts.

Health leaders say that the move comes amid growing concern that the scourge of problem gambling is being fuelled by online gaming sites and targeted adverts. Hundreds of thousands of people in England have a serious problem with gambling, with an additional two million at risk of developing a disorder.

According to the Gambling Commission, the number of children classed as having a gambling problem is 55,000, with stats showing that 450,000 are gambling regularly, more than those who have taken drugs, drunk alcohol or smoked.

Specialist face-to-face NHS treatment for gambling addiction has only been available in London but is being made available across the country. Now, up to 14 new NHS clinics are being opened – starting with the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds this summer, followed by Manchester and Sunderland.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: “The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed. This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people, but we need to be clear – tackling mental ill health caused by addiction is everyone’s responsibility – especially those firms that directly contribute to the problem. This is an industry that splashes £1.5 billion on marketing and advertising campaigns, much of it now pumped out online and through social media, but it has been spending just a fraction of that helping customers and their families deal with the direct consequences of addiction.

“The sums just don’t add up and that is why as well as voluntary action it makes sense to hold open the possibility of a mandatory levy if experience shows that’s what’s needed. A levy to fund evidence-based NHS treatment, research and education can substantially increase the money available, so that taxpayers and the NHS are not left to pick up a huge tab.”

Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We support several of the key recommendations of the Committee’s report, which strongly reflects the evidence we gave to this inquiry on behalf of local government. In particular, we are pleased that the report shares our concerns that current proposals are too NHS-focused and that NHS England, NHS Improvement and the Department for Health and Social Care need to give greater consideration to the role and contribution of councils in the wider health and social care system.

“While we are in favour of measures to enable greater collaboration within the NHS, we want to avoid any legal change which may have unforeseen impacts on collaboration between the NHS and local government.  As stated in this report, legal reforms should allow councils to be equal partners on joint committees alongside Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS providers.

“We also support the report’s recognition that Health and Wellbeing Boards have a crucial role to play in developing fully integrated health and care systems, as part of a new health and care landscape outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan. Any legislative change needs to ensure parity of esteem between the NHS and local government and ensure local accountability of the NHS.”

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