Government commits to opening further clinics to tackle problem gambling

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to address compulsive gambling as part of a £20.5bn NHS shake-up. The proposed treatment centres will provide access to mental health services for the 500,000 adults and young people with gambling problems.

There is currently only one clinic that specialises in treatment for compulsive gamblers in the UK, which is insufficient for treating those with problems and those at risk. Health Secretary Matthew Hancock is tasked with overseeing the initiative.

Under May’s plan for the NHS, the health service will receive an additional £20.5bn by 2023, which will help fund the new facilities.

Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, celebrated the proposal: “For the past 10 years GambleAware has funded the National Problem Gambling Clinic at CNWL 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.”

The decision is overwhelmingly positive for the gambling industry as a whole. The onus of tackling problem gambling is no longer solely with the gambling industry, and demonstrates the government’s willingness to address the issue.

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.

Bowden-Jones expressed her appreciation upon receiving the award: ”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.”

Work is currently underway to open treatment centres in both Leeds and Lancashire. Leeds will be the home of the first problem gambling clinic outside of London and is expected to open in April of this year. GambleAware has contributed £1.2m towards the opening of the clinic.

The clinic will be operated by a partnership formed between the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the GamCare Network.

The funding for some problem gambling treatment from the NHS has long been an ambition for stakeholders given the vast amount of tax revenues the industry provides the Treasury. It is perhaps reflective that the current Health Secretary arrived at the Department of Health directly from the DCMS where Hancock was involved in key gambling issues such as the horseracing levy and FOBT stakes in his short time as Culture Secretary.

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