Are 15 NHS Gambling Addiction Clinics Enough to Meet the Need?

The NHS currently has a plan to open 15 clinics for the purpose of curbing the increasing number of gamblers in the UK. This plan has been put in place to address the shockingly high statistic that suggests there are as many as 1.4 million people in the UK currently addicted to gambling.

The news has been brought to the forefront recently as a lady called Liz Ritchie, who lost her 24-year-old son Jack back in 2017, supported doctors who are urging the NHS to increase the amount of medics to have on hand to tackle and identify potential gambling addictions.

Liz Ritchie’s son committed suicide believed to be related to his gambling addiction, and Liz has publicly stated that she believes the NHS’s current plan does not provide enough clinicians on hand to address this growing problem.

She also stated that it’s essential for clinicians to be given the training that helps them to provide an early diagnosis for gambling before it escalates, as well as being appropriately trained to refer people to the correct treatment facilities for gambling addiction.

Gambling With Lives

Liz Ritchie decided to set up a charity with her husband Charles Richie called ‘Gambling With Lives’. It aims to help create awareness about the dangerous and destructive nature that gambling addiction can have on people’s lives, in order to prevent further deaths related to gambling.

They do this by spreading information and statistics about gambling abuse, as well as how much is spent on it and who it affects. For instance, some of the statistics they have found include:

  • There are 400+ gambling-related suicides that occur every year in the UK
  • 55,000+ children have become addicted to gambling in the UK
  • As much as £1.5 billion is spent on advertising for gambling every year in the UK

In addition to her main comments about the small number of specialist clinics available for treating gambling addictions within the UK, she also stated that there is a need for a ‘statutory levy’ which would seek to reduce the amount of profit made by the gambling industry in the UK. Moreover, this money would then be repurposed and invested in creating new treatment centres for people suffering from a gambling addiction.

Mrs Ritchie also believes that the current information available to people regarding how gambling is linked to mental health issues as well as other high risk issues (for instance, drug use) is not good enough. She says that it does not present a clear picture of how harmful gambling can be, and why people should be wary of it and the problems it can cause.

She has suggested that if this information is readily available and sufficient enough, it could potentially prevent gambling-related deaths from occuring in the future.

Cause of Death Law

In the case of Liz Ritchie’s son, the coroner in question ruled that no breaches had occurred in terms of the duty of the state in protecting Jack’s life. However, the coroner did state that the information, treatment, and warning signs that were present in society at the time of Jack’s death were not able to help to save Jack, and nor were they adequate for society at large.

The law regarding this matter states that coroners must declare who the deceased person was, the manner in which they died, and when and where the death occurred. However, there is no legal requirement for providing an explanation as to why an individual chose to take their own life. Liz Ritchie is campaigning to change this law, as she firmly believes that gambling and its effects led her son to taking his own life.

The NHS Plan

NHS England set a 2024 target deadline for opening at least 15 gambling clinics. As of writing, there are currently 5 clinics open (in Sunderland, Manchester, Leeds, London, and also a pilot clinic that is designed especially for children and young adults).

There are two clinics in the cities of Southampton and Stoke that were supposed to open in May 2022; however, they have yet to open (though the NHS has stated they are hoping that these clinics will open in 2022).

The British Medical Association

The BMA stated in a conference in Brighton earlier this year that they considered the current regulations on gambling within the UK to be ‘inadequate’. Moreover, they suggested that these current regulations fail to prevent the younger generations from becoming future gamblers. They also stated that they consider the current management of people suffering with gambling addictions to be poor.

They echoed Mrs Ritchie’s words, stating that the number of specialist clinics that treat gambling addictions within the UK should increase by a significant amount. Specially, they proposed that there should be a pathway available that is specific to doctors who specialise in the treatment of gambling disorders.

How to Address an Addiction to Gambling

There are various different programs on hand to help people suffering from a gambling addiction. Depending on what the individual requires, the programmes available can potentially completely turn a person’s life around by providing them with individualised care options that help them to fully address the symptoms and causes of their addiction, and then helping them get to the level where they can beat it.

Residential treatment facilities (also known as rehab) can be a potential option for those struggling with gambling addictions. Even though they are typically more commonly used for drug addiction treatment programs, they can also be used for helping people to battle a gambling addiction.

The key forms of treatment that will enable people to beat a gambling addiction may include taking part in step by step programmes such as the 4-step SMART recovery process or the 12-step recovery programme. It may also include taking part in regular therapy and counselling sessions.

These forms of treatment can help people to accept that they have an addiction, make a commitment to overcoming it, and build coping mechanisms for dealing with their desire to gamble. They can also provide people with the means to build confidence and belief in themselves, which will then enable them to move on with their lives and avoid relapse.

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