The National Health Service has confirmed that it will no longer accept payments and financial assistance by gambling firms to fund treatment services. This comes as the NHS launches two new clinics to treat addiction in Southampton and Stoke-On-Trent. NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch confirmed the news with GambleAware, an NGO that has been helping to raise treatment money, stating that the organization would now seek to fund its own gambling treatment services across England.
No More Gambling Money Starting April
The change is planned to take place on April 1. According to Murdoch, the fund conflicted with the mission the NHS was trying to achieve and it made patients reluctant or uneasy to participate, knowing that the industry had funded their treatment. Even treatment personnel expressed frustration and argued that there was a conflict of interest to continue receiving money from the gambling industry, Murdoch added.
Two new gambling clinics will open in England this year, as the NHS faces record demand for specialist support for gambling addiction.
Find out how people are already benefitting from NHS clinics, providing specialist support. ➡️ https://t.co/0L1fui6zmj pic.twitter.com/PEj7bMFAoF
— NHS England and NHS Improvement (@NHSEngland) February 19, 2022
GambleAware has been a powerful tool in raising funds towards treatment and awareness initiatives in the United Kingdom. Between April and December alone, the company managed to collect £16 million ($21.80 million), and £1.2 million ($1.63 million) of this amount has been allocated to the NHS.
Meanwhile, Murdoch made it clear that the NHS would not be able to tackle the problem that is gambling addiction on its own nor that it was supposed to. The NHS would still collaborate with GambleAware, for example, Murdoch explained:
“We are therefore committed to maintaining a constructive operational relationship with GambleAware as this change is implemented and continuing to work together on developing a treatment system that is fit for purpose.”
NHS mental health director Claire Murdoch
She urged stakeholders to take “firm action” in order to nip the problem in the bud and the number of people needing help for gambling addiction begins to drop. Murdoch also said that the industry ought to be more heavily taxed and regulated, something that is expected to happen with the upcoming Gambling Act review in May.
More People Seeking Gambling Addition Help
In the meantime, Murdoch has warned about an increase in the number of people who seek out treatment. In the last 12 months, the NHS has seen a 16.2% increase in people joining a treatment program.
This could be because either an increased incidence of gambling in society, but it could also be owing to the fact that the NHS treatment services are now more readily available and brought to the attention of the right target audience. In the period between April and December, 668 people joined for treatment and were diagnosed with severe gambling disorders. This number was up from 575 people in 2020.
As to the actual numbers of gambling addicts in society, this is presently estimated at 0.5% of the total population in the country or roughly 225,000 people. Impoverished areas are far more likely to have a higher incidence of reckless gambling, as revealed by a new Public Health England survey.
Murdoch explained that gambling addiction is a cruel condition that has a significant impact on people’s quality of life and could devastate lives altogether. She also commented on the upcoming mental health clinics focusing on gambling that would coincide with the Gambling Act Review first draft in May. They are part of a £2.3 billion ($3.13 million) investment that is part of the organization’s efforts to promote its treatment services and establish an adequate infrastructure that can meet demand.
“It is also absolutely right that the NHS now funds these clinics independently, recognizing the harmful effects this addiction can have on the nation’s mental health, and that predatory tactics from gambling companies are part of the problem, not the solution,” Murdoch concluded in her letter.