NHS Clinic for Problem Gamblers to be Launched in Leeds

Public health organisations are in advanced talks with problem gambling charity, GambleAware, over the possibility of a new clinic in Leeds. The NHS problem gambling clinic would be the first to open in the North of England.

Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council.

Dr Ian Cameron is the Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council ©NHS Leeds West

Research by Leeds Beckett University found that there are more than 10,000 people in the Yorkshire city with a gambling addiction. The study found a further 30,000 residents are classed as being at risk of harm from gambling. Wider research estimates the total number of problem gamblers in the UK at more than 400,000.

Representatives from 15 Yorkshire councils took part in a regional gambling masterclass organised by Public Health England (PHE) last week, where they heard talks from gambling experts about dealing with addiction.

Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council said that gambling is often a more hidden addiction than others, with serious financial problems that cause a huge impact on a person’s health, wellbeing and relationships. He also admitted that Leeds City Council is aware that Leeds & York Partnership Foundation NHS Trust has put a proposal to GambleAware to fund a specialist treatment service for those with gambling problems.

The council would support a treatment service funded by the gambling industry that is sustainable and responsive to the growing needs of problem gamblers in Leeds. Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health, Leeds City Council

Cameron added that the intention is for this service to be offered to the north of England.

The UK currently only has a single clinic for the treatment of gambling addiction – the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London – and founder and director, Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, was also among the speakers in Yorkshire.

She said that gambling addiction remains a serious illness that an increasing number of people in the country are showing signs of being at risk from: “It is important to continue the drive towards improving accessibility to services…maintaining high quality service delivery and developing new and better preventative measures to protect the vulnerable and to safeguard this country’s young people.”

Dr Alexandra Kenyon, who led the research at Leeds Beckett University, said he feels problem gambling is still not talked about openly enough, and that change is needed: “Not long ago, people didn’t talk about alcohol addiction or domestic violence. There are established networks to help those with an alcohol addiction or suffering from domestic violence. A co-ordinated approach across support services is now needed to further provide advice and support for gamblers with problems.”

Leeds City Council has taken a proactive approach and is currently working with the gambling industry on a campaign that outdoor posters, YouTube videos and social media posts called Beat The Odds. The scheme hopes to raise awareness of problem gambling and encourage openness about gambling-related problems.

A Beat the Odds social media post

A Beat the Odds social media post by @Leedsmic via ©Twitter

A spokesperson for GambleAware said: “With more than 400,000 problem gamblers in Britain, GambleAware is concerned that gambling-related harm ought to be regarded by national and regional policymakers as a significant public health issue, and that the NHS ought to be providing access to treatment when and wherever necessary, free at the point of delivery.”

Ministers launched a major consultation process last year to update gambling regulation in order to get a handle on a market that has exploded in the last decade. A report commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) recently announced it is seeking opinion on proposed regulatory changes in the UK gambling market. Consumers, gambling businesses, stakeholders and members of the public will be able to contribute to the discussion, suggesting new rules for advertising, unfair terms and conditions and how operators deal with complaints.

Sarah Gardner, executive director of the UKGC, said the commission was very keen to hear views of all those with interest in the gambling industry. She said: “We are proposing these changes because of the risk of consumer harm, concern about lack of compliance with consumer protection legislation, declining public trust in gambling and concerns about advertising.”

The UKGC will accept contributions until 22nd April 2018.

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