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‘The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling related ill health’, says NHS England. Their data show the number of gambling related hospital admissions has more than doubled in the last six years from 150 to 321. Of course, we know this is just the tip of the iceberg of gambling harm.

The rise in admissions has prompted the NHS to commit to opening 14 new problem gambling clinics by 2023/24, as part of its Long Term Plan.

This is music to our ears but why has it taken so long for the health authorities to wake up to the extent of gambling harm? We now need to keep the pressure on for these new clinics to happen as soon as possible. We also need to make sure they are accompanied by a push to ensure that mental health staff, GPs, social workers, probation officers and others, are better informed. Specialist clinics, vitally important though they are, will not be sufficient alone.

Prevention is better than treatment. Claire Murdoch, NHS Director for Mental Health, was outspoken, saying, ‘… more people than ever before are being egged on by shameless gambling firms… the gambling industry, which takes upward of £14 billion a year from punters, must take the blame…‘

Government needs to lead on introducing tighter control on gambling, suitable for the 21st century. A new Gambling Act is essential, to replace the misguided and out-of-date 2005 Act. The Government promised, in its election manifesto, that it would review the 2005 Act. We must hold them to this as a matter of urgency.

www.england.nhs.uk/2019/12/nhs-fighting-back-against-gambling

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