The NHS is set to open the UK’s first gambling addiction clinic for children and young people. The clinic, funded by NHS England, is scheduled to open in September of this year.
With research from The Gambling Commission suggesting that around 450,000 young people are betting regularly in the UK, the proposed clinic could make a dent in England’s young gambling problems.
The clinic aims to support and treat young people aged between the ages of 13 and 25 who bet regularly online or on fruit machines.
NHS England has highlighted growing concerns that children are being impacted by online gaming sites and targeted adverts are fuelling addiction.
The new service for young people, aged 13 to 25, will take place in the National Problem Gambling Clinic, housed in London it is the UK’s only dedicated gambling addiction centre.
Over the coming months, it is expected that up to 14 more gambling addiction clinics will open, initially focusing on treating adults. This summer will see the opening of the NHS Northern Gambling Service in Leeds. There are also plans for clinics in Manchester and Sunderland.
In recent months we have seen more and more news about the threat gambling poses to children and young people. In an increased effort to protect young people, the gambling industry has seen an increasing number of gambling advertisements being banned on the ground that they might appeal to children.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, recently condemned the “fraction” spent by industry on supporting people struggling with addiction compared to the amount spent on advertising and marketing.
Mr Stevens 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.
“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.”
Despite gambling firms recently offering to increase contributions to help problem gamblers, the Gambling Commission says a mandatory levy is needed to support those in need of treatment.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I have seen first-hand the devastating impact gambling addiction can have on people’s lives and I am determined to do everything I can to help anyone affected get the help and support they need.
“We know too many young people face their lives being blighted by problem gambling – so these new clinics will also look at what more can be done to help them.”