By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 19 February 2022 • 13:59
NHS England has announced that it will from April 1 no longer take money from the gambling industry to fund specialised addiction services, instead the organisation will fund these from its own resources. This as the organisation faces record demand for its specialist support.
The health service’s National Mental Health Director, Claire Murdoch, has written to the grant-making charity GambleAware to say the NHS will be fully funding its own gambling services across England from 1 April.
The decision she said was “heavily influenced” by patients who were uncomfortable about using services paid for by the industry.
She added: “Additionally, our clinicians feel there are conflicts of interest in their clinics being part-funded by resources from the gambling industry.”
Accounts for GambleAware show that it collected £16m (19m euros) between April and December last year from voluntary donations by the gambling industry to fund treatments, including £1.2m (1.44m euros) which was given to NHS specialist clinics. The donations are however a drop in the ocean for an industry that takes more than £14bn (16bn euros) a year from gambling in the UK.
Ms Murdoch’s letter said that while the donations allowed the NHS to roll out services “faster than would have otherwise been possible”, there was still a desire to pay for them using general funding.
She continued saying: “The NHS cannot address the harms caused by gambling alone, nor is it the NHS’s job to tackle this on its own.
“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.”
Finally she concluded by saying that the NHS would like to see the industry take “firm action” so that people do not need to seek help from the health service, calling for the industry to be “more heavily regulated and taxed”.
Gambling remains a major problem in the UK with the NHS facing record demands for support. Latest data shows a 16.2% increase in referrals to gambling clinics last year with 688 people with the most severe addictions referred for assistance between April and December.
Experts suggest that around 0.5% of the UK adult population, around 246,000 people, are likely to have some form of gambling addiction and that 2.2 million are at risk.
Ms Murdoch said the health service plans to launch two new gambling clinics in Southampton and Stoke-On-Trent in May, which will help to provide much needed addiction services.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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