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NHS go all-in on gambling addictions

Posted on January 2020 By Jamie Southwell

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​The NHS aims to help gambling addicts as they open a new clinic in the North East England which specialises in rehabilitating those struggling with a gambling addiction.

Run under the authority of the Northern Gambling Service and funded by the NHS and GambleAware, this is the second facility they’ve opened since 2019 with the previous one being located in Leeds and their new base in Sunderland.

The clinic aims to provide free treatment and support for addicts and families affected by it, offering additional support for those with more complex mental health conditions alongside the primary gambling focus. The Sunderland team will consist of a Consultant Psychiatrist, Consultant Psychologist, Clinical Psychologist, and a Senior Mental Health Nurse, but will also be working together with the Leeds team.

Matthew Gaskell, Consultant Psychologist

The Consultant Psychologist, Matthew Gaskell, addressed how important it is to tackle the growing gambling epidemic by saying ‘Gambling addiction is a new public health crisis. Thousands of people are caused serious harm by it, resulting in mental health problems, relationship issues, debt issues, loss of employment, crime, homelessness, and sometimes even suicide’. He believes that with the ‘proper treatment, the chances of recovery from gambling addictions can be very good’.

A personal believer in the new gambling clinics is Steve Ramsey, a recovering addict, who began gambling at a young age but didn’t become a serious issue for him until he was introduced to online gambling. He described it all as feeling like you’re in a ‘big hole with nowhere to turn’ and at his worst, Steve was losing thousands of pounds per day and eventually he found himself being imprisoned for fraud. Things are looking brighter for Steve though as he found a way to better himself, ‘Once I said to myself that I had a huge gambling problem, everything got better. An incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders by just letting everyone know’. Overall Steve feels that if he’d been able to use an NHS gambling clinic it would have made a huge difference for him and potentially could do the same for others.

Steve Ramsey, 53

Steve is just one among many in the UK that struggle with addiction, it was reported in a recent NHS survey that around 265,000 adults (0.4% of the population) are classed as higher risk gamblers, and close to 2.4 million (3.6%) are prone to developing into high risk gamblers. It’s a concern that’s growing increasingly in children too, with the use of mobile phones becoming more popular among the age group and games tending to use flashy colours and childish marketing to profit off them.

Just last year, The Common Sense Media reported that by age 11, 53% of children in the US already had their own smart phones and that figure increased to 69% by the time they hit 12. This is a figure that will only increase within the upcoming years, however it was in that same year that the NHS finally began addressing the taboo topic of gambling addictions amongst kids after The Northern Gambling Service opened their very first clinic and allowed for Children as young as 13 to seek help.

Addressing the issue in adults and helping to rehabilitate them is a great start but with the rise of technology, the UK needs to find a more effective way of preventing future addictions from escalating in kids.